Making quality time with children is a major task for fathers. Certainly, there are many good options for activities that include quality time, but one of the quality time activities that bears the most fruit for fathers is a periodic but regular father’s interview - a one-on-one experience between a dad and a child.
“Father’s interview? What is a father’s interview?”
The idea of creating some time regularly - weekly or monthly - for a father and a child to talk about what is important to each of them - is maybe a bit unique and might even feel a little quirky.
Many dads think about interviews like their performance evaluations at work - and worry about how a child would respond to something like that. Would they be intimidated to have a meeting like that? Would dad even know what to say or what questions to ask? Would the entire encounter only last five minutes because neither child nor dad knew what to talk about?
A father’s interview is a golden opportunity to talk meaningfully and to gain a window into a child’s life. Given the nature of many families, kids have much more opportunity to have meaningful conversations with their moms, and maybe not so much with their dads. Often, a relationship between a child and mother lends itself to closer and more regular communication without feeling intimidated or threatened. Sometimes, with dad, it takes a little more effort to create these opportunities.
They create a time to talk about expectations and a child’s behavior and performance, but they also create a time to talk about what is on a child’s mind. Fathers can help with things like goals, education, friends, and feelings if the dads create an atmosphere of trust and love.
Some families that have instituted father’s interviews as a part of family life have reported some great results.
Often, the interviews are held once a month for maybe 15-30 minutes. The kids have a chance to share their experiences of the month as Dad asks some questions that lead to positive discussions. They can work on goals, check out school, grades, and homework, talk about friends, review awkward moments to see how things might turn out better next time, and even talk about crushes, dates and relationships. As dads build their own more trusting relationships through these interview opportunities, children come to look forward to the chance to have some quality one-on-one time with their father.
The Interview Invitation
As with any other change in the family dynamic, starting a tradition of father’s interviews can be difficult. Such one-on-one time may be unusual or different for both kids and dads. When a dad wants to start a father’s interview process, it is a good idea for Dad and Mom to both be supportive of the idea. Enlisting Mom’s good feelings about the experience will help when the kids come to her wondering about Dad’s weird new idea.
For younger children, the invitation to a father’s interview might start out as just some snuggle time. Talking with a child about what is important to them and listening to their concerns works just fine holding them on your lap.
For older kids, the invitation to “have a talk” or to go out for a treat together can be a good way to begin. Chatting over a milkshake or a Mexican food lunch - whatever your child loves - can jumpstart father’s interviews.
Keys to Success
For father’s interviews to work best, it is good for dads to focus on these concepts.
Make them private. Just have an interview with one child at a time. Focused attention sends a message of love, concern and appreciation.
Start with the positives. Tell your child how much you love them, and then talk about the things you appreciate about them. Dads often just want to “get to the point” and talk about what needs to change in the child’s behavior. But “the point” of a father’s interview is to build the relationship and increase trust and confidence.
Spend twice as much time listening as talking. Listen to your children in the interview in a deep way. Listen to their words, but also watch their body language. As you seek to understand them better, ask questions which show that you have been listening and that you are working to understand their concerns and feelings. A little research into “active listening” can help with some of the kinds of questions you should ask.
Talk about their goals and dreams. As you work with your children to set and accomplish their goals, make this discussion a part of the father’s interview. Help them measure their progress, re-evaluate their goals, and make sure that they are moving forward. Reassure them when they are not doing as well as they want, and praise them when they are making progress. Let them dream with you in these private interview times.
Share your stories when appropriate. Don’t project your own experiences onto your kids, but use your life experiences as examples when it might help them. Always see their life from their perspective, but your personal experiences and inform and encourage your children.