Carey Casey shares helpful ways to connect more deeply with your children.
When I first came to the National Center, I heard all about WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students). I quickly learned what it was and how it worked, and I even talked to people about how fantastic it is. But not long ago I had a chance to actually spend a day at my 11-year-old son’s school as a WatchDOG dad, and now I have a new appreciation for the power of fathers giving a day to spend at their children’s school.
I walked in and they handed me an itemized schedule of my entire day. I got a set of keys, with instructions to lock certain doors. I even had a walkie-talkie, and they told me what to look for and who to call if anything happened. My agenda for the day included some time in five different classrooms, lunch and recess with my son Chance, patrolling the hallways, and regularly scanning the parking lot, playground, buildings and perimeter.
I helped kids with their reading. One little girl came up to me and she said, “I’m on my third book.” She was proud to tell me that she was reading.
I went out on the playground, where the boys asked me what my favorite sports team is. They knew I had been in sports earlier in life, and that was their way of connecting. Then they asked me, “Can you be our quarterback?”
Some of the girls just asked me, “Could you watch us play?” And so I just stood there watching them, and somehow they were affirmed by that.
I spent a few minutes with another girl working on flash cards for math. We got to the end, and she asked, “Can I come back and do it again?” And I saw that sense of accomplishment and pride in other kids, too, when they learn something new. As a visitor who was there to help, they liked to share those things with me. Plus, I got a very needed refresher course on the state capitals.
That day really changed my perspective. In the past few months, as CEO here at the Center, I’ve met with national leaders on Capitol Hill, and I’ve done many other “important” things. Even there at the school they know I’m Chance’s dad and Mrs. Casey’s husband, and some of them remember that I work some with the Kansas City Chiefs. So, I have all these titles, you know.
But when I put on that WATCH D.O.G.S. T-shirt and then heard kids saying, “Hi, Mr. WatchDOG,” or, “Wow, Mr. Casey is a WatchDOG—that’s cool,” it was as though I had gone to a whole new level, a higher status. During that day I made a deeper connection with my own son and many of the other kids in his school.
On this day, I wasn’t a dad just hanging out at the school. I had a role and a purpose; I had responsibilities. It was like I went into a zone. When I was out on the playground, I watched like I normally did not watch it. I scanned the perimeter for any unusual situations; I noticed kids who needed help with something.
And by the end, I could not believe how fast the day went!
I learned so much just being there, and dad, you will, too. Even if you aren’t well-educated, you have significant challenges as a dad, or you don’t feel like you have much to give your kids, you can do this. Your kids will love seeing you there at school, being part of their day, doing something to make a difference.
My son will graduate from that school in a few years and my wife will quit teaching there someday, but it makes me proud to know that WATCH D.O.G.S. is still going to continue there because it works. It brings more security and peace to the school, and provides a great role for a dad who may not feel that he has a role there. It brings people together.
- Set goals for what you will teach your children in specific areas (at an appropriate level for their age): money, values, sex, emotions, etc.
- Contact the parent-teacher organization leader at your child’s school and ask about the father-involvement ideas they have in place. Offer WATCH D.O.G.S. as a possibility.
- Read with your children, no matter if they’re toddlers or teens. Set up a reward system if they read a certain amount of time each day or each week.
- Come up with questions that force your child to really think or look up answers: “Why are manhole covers round?” “Why are nickels bigger than dimes?”
- Get your family involved in things that will become natural learning experiences: a yard sale, volunteering to help someone in need, finding information online that will help someone, etc.