Raising kids is like managing a career: One turn of events can have a big impact on your performance rating. I was reminded of this when we replaced our family-room carpet -- and banished all toys to the basement. Our stock with the kids took a huge hit.
But we also moved the old carpet downstairs to cover what had been bare concrete. Suddenly, Jordan, 8, and Marissa, 6, had a large, soft play space unencumbered by good-carpet rules. We had lots of room for "Dad games": body-slamming into big, cushy pillows; attacking each other with large, spongy tubes; and playing a tussled baseball-football combo.
Within weeks, Marissa reported to my wife that her love for me had grown "from this much" (spreading her hands a bit wider than shoulder width) to "this much" (hands at full wingspan) -- an improvement of at least 35 percent.
In business, I'd get a raise. But at home, I reaped a different benefit: My wife stopped fretting about somebody getting hurt (admittedly, it happens) and chiding me for getting the kids all worked up. She saw that through horseplay, I was bonding with them in a loving, important way.
Richard Laliberte, a former senior writer at Men's Health, has written extensively about fatherhood and children's health.