When our boys were little, I used to make a ritual out of taking one or more of them to Hardee’s to grab a biscuit. Then we’d drive out to a construction site somewhere, hop up on the tailgate, and chow down. My boys loved watching those bulldozers moving dirt and making a lot of noise. It created a bonding time for us that set the foundation for our father-son relationship to grow and mature as they grew and matured. 

Structuring bonding time around mealtimes is a reliable way to make it happen.

You’re going to eat every day, and your kids are going to eat every day. Dads, how can you foster mealtimes with family when having everyone sit around the table every night is just not an option? How can you foster discipleship time together in that way? 

Keep it simple.

Do something simple, but focus on creating bonds. Always looking to create an environment where the conversation flows. That’s the point. 

Have them help.

This might sound like the opposite of keeping it simple. But it can just be PB&J. If kids get to help, it makes them more excited about the whole experience. 

“When kids help prepare a meal, they are much more likely to eat it, and it’s a useful skill that seems to build self-esteem. Research on family meals does not explore whether it makes a difference if dinner is with two parents or one or even whether the meal needs to be dinner. For families whose schedules make evenings together a challenge, breakfast or lunch may have the same value. So pull up some chairs. Lose the TV. Let the phone go unanswered. And see where the moment takes you.” (Nancy Gibbs, The Magic of the Family Meal – TIME

Get creative.

What can you do, and when can you do it? Focus on the solution, and don’t get hung up on the ideal picture. Start with what works for you and be intentional about making it happen.

Try some of these ideas: 

  • We’ve done biscuits and bulldozers. 
  • When the kids were little and I worked construction, Stacy would pack them up with a picnic lunch and bring them to the job site so we could eat together. 
  • We’ve had many a Little League tailgate party at the ball field. 
  • Our daughter-in-law Caroline takes Owen to Tim’s office. Everyone loves it! Tim’s coworkers welcome having our delightful grandson in the office, and Owen gets to see his dad in that environment. 
  • Eat together virtually. Have a “Facetime and Fast Food” date if you can’t be together in person. 

Get the picture?

I just want to give you permission to do what works. It all counts if it is intentional. 

As our kids get into their preteen and teen years, we feel the urgent need to be able to speak into their lives. But if you want a relationship with a teenager, you have to put in the work early and develop a relationship with a toddler. It can be simple, but it sets up bonds for life.  

Not long before we took Hannah, our youngest child and only daughter, off to college for the first time, I took her to dinner and a movie. Our kids never get too old for daddy-daughter dates or bonding time.  

It is regrettably more difficult when our kids hit the volatile years to start setting a pattern for spending time and investing in them, but it’s not impossible. It’s never too late to start. Don’t be dissuaded from doing something now; just know it might take some time. You might face more of a challenge, but it is a worthy one to address. 

“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.” Proverbs 23:24 ESV