How Much Quality Time Should You Spend With Your Child?

This is a phrase I really do not like.  I first heard it in the 1990s, and I disliked it then. Today, I am still not a fan,

Let’s ask your boss for her opinion.

How many hours a day does she believe constitutes real quality work by you for the organization that employs you? Your employer is likely to suggest eight hours, the national average.

Despite all the changes in the structure of the workplace, almost everyone in full-time employment continues to work a 9-5 job.

So, what would happen if you were to suggest to your employer that instead of working eight hours a day, you will be devoting eight hours a week to ensuring quality time on the job?

I think we all know the answer.

And yet, statistics suggest that 8 hours, on average, is the total time we offer our children,  Monday-Friday Weekend days are better with an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes spent in family interaction.  

The reasons for this are fairly clear in today’s society:

  • Parents are working very long hours and much is expected of them-many are stressed, anxious, and tired.  
  • Evenings, parents are too tired to deal with the traditional drudgery of childcare and simply wish to decompress before the next day.
  • Family members often lead separate lives, living together but self-isolated in parallel technological worlds.
  • School, sports, and clubs eat into the evenings and weekends; too often,  homework and dinner happen in the bleachers during practice and games.

The pace of modern life can mean that the ideal of families spending time together is increasingly the exception, rather than the rule.

Families increasingly rely on an invisible army of helpers to make life work- nannies, tutors, coaches, cleaners, teachers and friends, fast food and supermarket prepared meals, summer camps, and so on.

Homework now competes with outside commitments, and schools are giving less; too many children are arriving at school tired and unprepared to attend; Sunday church now competes with families worshipping at the altar of sports; families of elementary children attend the same birthday parties, with the same children, and leave with the same basic experience, in a scene played over and over again over years.  Harried parents spend a tremendous number of hours driving their children from pillar to post, and for what?

So, at Confident Parenting, we urge you to re-examine your schedules and “quality” time spent with your family members.  

Urgency and Importance

The late author, Stephen Covey,  created a well-known time management box divided into four quadrants, as seen below, with four accompanying titles.  The box is designed to illustrate how you spend your time, and it can easily be adapted to explain your family schedule.

covey-matrix

So, what is important and urgent in your family life?- picking your child up from school on time, for example,  falls into this category.

What is important but not urgent?   Ensuring that there is food for dinner is important, but so long as the cupboard is not bare, shopping can wait for a while, on your schedule.

Urgent but not important might include ensuring that your child’s clothes are washed for the next day.  Maybe, if it’s too late, your child will not be able to wear her favorite bunny shirt, but so long as the shirt is clean, she will survive.  

It is not urgent and not important that your child attend every birthday party.  It is OK to pick and choose and to use that freed time for a family activity.

Now, try this for all of your family life. Draw your own box and place those items of your family life into the relevant boxes.

What is urgent and what is not?

What is important and what is not?

At Confident Parenting, we believe that family time is sacred.  We understand that the strains on family life today makes time scarce and invaluable.  

Thus, planning your family time is really important.  In the end, this may, in fact, be quality time, and I need to let go of my reservations.  However, the ideal of spending quantity time within the family remains the goal.  

It really does not matter that the family goes bowling together every Friday night; what matters is the idea of strengthening the individual relationships between strikes.

For example, there is solid evidence to support the idea that families that regularly eat meals together with no distractions are emotionally more secure.  Maybe it cannot happen every night, and maybe it is pizza called in, but having that time to decompress together is really important.

Sacred family times where attendance is not optional, such as a family game night,  allow families to focus on each other; simple rules about the use of electronics, ensures a more healthy approach towards gaming and social media; less time in organized sports and more time together outside strengthens the family bonds.

Each family is different, and each must find its own path to happiness.  However, being aware of the need to find those ways to grow together as a unit will make this possible.

At Confident Parenting, we can help you overcome the family naysayers and to develop your family plan. We will be there to support you.