I hate playing with my kids, and that’s okay

Meeting half way

I will be the first to admit that on the weekends when my wife has to work, and the school holidays scare me. As a father of 2 wonderful daughters, the prospect of 12 waking hours of having to entertain my kids is not only mentally stressful, and I feel guilty saying it, “I sometimes hate doing it”.

Do I have enough activities to do? What if they don’t like it? Why does my daughter want to play the same game over and over again (she is a zoo keeper taking care of tigers, and I have to make sure the visitors don’t jump into the tiger’s enclosure, or something like that)?

There are two issues at play here (no pun intended): the Fear of being inadequate in our role to entertain our children; and Dread of having to repeatedly play with them games that don’t interest us or be dictated to by our children on how to play their game.

In an article by Dr Peter Gray, titled “Playing with Children: Should You, and If So, How?”, Dr Gray shares that whether you are an adult or child, Playing is very similar.

When 2 children play, and one does not want to do what the other wants to, they simply express their disinterest and either stop playing or will convince the other to play another game.

This is similar when 2 adults are playing. I use the term “Play” with friends loosely here; it could be sitting at a café with your friends talking about your footy club, or playing squash; when one party has had enough, they will politely find a way of changing the activity.

However, when adults play with their own children, they feel that they have to give in to them and just endure it because we want to make our kids happy.

After all we ARE the adults.

After doing this for months, and not enjoying it, we begin to hate and avoid it. It’s a natural process – all creatures will shun things that it does not like, or attack it.

No wonder so many adults hate playing with their children, whether they admit it or not.

Do I feel guilty? Absolutely! Is it wrong? Absolutely not.

As a stay home father running 2 businesses – this one, Proud Daddy Moments; and another selling Cubby Houses and Outdoor Play Equipment - Bubby Cubby – I make a living out of parents enjoying their time spent with their children.

The fact is this: research suggests that children, especially daughters, grow up more resilient, and get into less trouble when they have quality play time with their fathers. The Family Peace foundation, in their radio ads, advocate at least 8 minutes a day, which is not much, but I’m sure we as parents can do better than that.

How do we do it and get over this dread?

Think of how you would play with your friends. You would not stand to continue your activity with them if you are bored with it, neither should you with your child.

Play is important in childhood, because it helps your children navigate the complexities of human relationships in the future. When they play with other children, they will have to give and take. They will learn to compromise, cooperate, and stand up for themselves, or back down.

Just because you are their parent does not mean that you have to give in all the time. You have to create that same social environment for them to understand that it is not all about them.

When you get bored of a game they want to play, negotiate a new game, or if you are busy trying to get some work done, compromise at the start of the game that you will only play with them for 15 minutes and they will need to give you time to do work.

It is easier said then done, especially in the beginning (it is really difficult to negotiate with a 2 year old), but over time, they will understand the rules of engagement, and if they want Daddy or Mummy time, they need to give something back in return.

Trust me, once you get over the hump, things will get easier, and you will find yourself enjoying your play time with your children more.

I did. And I miss playing with them when I am busy working.

The second issue then is the fear that you are not able to find activities that your children will enjoy, and your own self-esteem is hurt because your ideas have been rejected.

Hey… Just breath and relax…

It’s not about you. In your personal life, career, and friendships, you would have suggested ideas which have fallen flat, or ignored. That’s a fact. How did you deal with it? How did you get over it?

Just because you are the adult doesn’t mean your suggestions are always good. Kids have feelings and moods too, and you will just have to learn to navigate their interest too. The more you do it, the easier it is to know how to deal with it. Just remember that you and your partner are still learning about each other and how to manage each other’s likes and expectations after many years of being together.

Having a relationship with your child is no different.

Many times, your children just want to spend some time with you doing… whatever.

If you are really short on ideas of what to do with your children just search the web. There are plenty of tips on things you can do with your children. They range from simple classics like board games, to going camping.

For me, I have learnt to accept that playing with children is just like having a relationship with any adult, I have to work at it; and by creating an environment of compromise and respect, I have began to really enjoy playing again, even when I occasionally have to repeat the game 20 times before moving on.