One Saturday morning, when are kids were preschool age, my wife set me up for a date . I was to take “sonny-boy” to a play and she was to take our “Bonks” to story time at the library. We would meet up for lunch and talk about our events. These “dates” turned out to be the best thing we ever did as parents – one on one with each of our kids starting at an early age – and into forever.  And what will these dates reveal?

1. He can talk:

Your normally quiet kid will have no choice but to talk, as will you. You can tell stories that they will remember for a surprisingly long time. (Then as a teenager, what’s all this nonsense about not communicating – you’ve been doing that their whole lives)

2. Shot gun:

Your kid gets to sit in the front seat for a change. He is treated as someone special. For the duration of the date, he has your full attention. There is also the respect thing. The greatest kids of all are respected by their parents. A date puts you in a position to treat junior more as an equal. (In my day, we were shoved in the back seat and told to be quiet – “we’ll get there when we get there”.)

3. Choices:

A family outing is usually mandated, directed, and controlled by the parents. A date however, is mutual, as in “so what would you like to do next? (Clue: don’t give wide open choices but options between A and B) Your child learns to make decisions, consider others, and perhaps learn to be a leader.

4. Discover her passion:

You and she will learn what she likes, what she’s good at. Although it’s likely that your dates will morph into transporting them to their sports or dance lessons, try to experience art, music, and expose them to as many things as you can. If you can help your kids find their paths, some of that aimless wandering in their 20’s to find career, hobbies or relationships can be avoided.

5. Social engagement:

You’re bound to meet all kinds of people on your date events. How you engage with them is a model for your little one. Moreover, they will likely be involved in these adult interactions themselves. This is a great antidote to the kid interactions learned at school – (which can include ridicule, gossip and bullying) If more kids knew more about the real world, perhaps they wouldn’t be as sad and goofy in high school.

6. Ammo for dinner:

What do you talk about at the dinner table? As children get older they become master of single phrase answers. (Fine, good, I don’t know). But with dates, they can’t get away with that. We always plugged a lot of enthusiasm into the events and how they would be discussed with the others. (Clue: if you want your kids to really open up, get a speeding ticket then say “we’re not going to tell Mom”.)

7. Free help:

Do you have too many errands and projects to do this weekend? Combine those with a date. Ask for his help (whether you need it or not) and do something fun as a reward for getting the work done. For some people, including most males, they don’t really connect unless they are working on a task together. Task partners typically alternate between focus and banter. I believe the pros call this “bonding”. It’s good stuff.