the quality vs quantity time myth

In his book Revolutionary Parenting, George Barna writes the following:

“Millions of parents have accepted the idea that they have to make a choice. They must either give up careers and self-fulfillment and spend a lot of time with their children, or spend limited but deeply enriching time with them while maintaining the same level of vocational involvement. Over the past 15 years, various studies have shown that this switch has diminished the impact of parents. And the lie about the choice involved has hurt both parents and children, leaving a large proportion of young adults feeling as if they were not adequately parented and a shockingly high number feeling that they lacked a father figure in their lives. In fact, when we asked young adults what they felt were the most significant mistakes that America’s parents have made, the second highest ranked mistake was not spending enough time with their children.”

“The typical American family registers less than 15 minutes of direct parent-child conversation each day.”

In today’s fast paced world most parents are stuck doing their best imitation of a taxi cab driver.  They’re escorting their children from one event to the next, pounding down some fast food, chatting it up on their cell phone, and dropping french fries under the seats that will be petrified by the time the minivan gets cleaned 2 months later.  There is the revolving door at home where things seem more like Grand Central Station than a home at times. And oh yea, all while mom and dad are trying to advance in their career and let’s not forget trying to carve out a little time for some romance. Things just don’t seem so romantic now after rattling off a list like that. At that breakneck pace, how relationally deep can anyone go with their kids? While we don’t always do this right by any stretch of the imagination, the following are some examples of what has worked well in the Alexander house.

#1 Get out of the House Together

I don’t know about you but the house gets stuffy for me sometimes especially with 3 kids well, being kids. We make it a point on a regular basis to just get out of the house together. It may mean going on a family bike ride, walking down to a local pond to feed the ducks, or play at the local park all evening after work. We’ve even hit up a botanical garden and of course there is the old standby sporting event.

#2 Go out for Treats

In this economy eating out for a family of 5 can be a bit challenging to do on a regular basis. But we definitely have some family favorites that can be done on the cheap. It’s amazing how our family can put away a dozen or so Krispy Kreme donuts that are hot off the press. And lucky for us (and the local gym) there is a Cold Stone and Starbucks right by the house. In fact my kids knew what Starbuck was way before they knew about McDonald’s!

#3 Regular Family Nights

We’re pretty dogmatic about our weekly family night. This is just one of those you spend time doing what’s important to you deals. The phone gets turned off (I’m trying) and we will do game nights, movie nights, wrestle-mania, you name it! How about a little Wii bowling tournament?

#4 Dates with Daddy

This is the fun stuff. Sitting at Starbucks sipping a latte listening to what’s going on in the life of one of my daughters, hitting a movie with them, or taking them out for a meal just one on one. I’m trying my best to make the standard pretty high for some young man to live up to.

#5 Eat lunch with your kid at school

This is a simple thing that we’ve done from time to time that is still cool and is a treat (especially if we bring something for them and their friends).

#6 Take a Staycation

Instead of heading out of town, still take the time off of work but save the money and stay home and explore your home town. I bet there is a ton of stuff you and your kids have never done at home. One time we camped in the backyard for a couple of nights and one of those nights we even pulled out a T.V. and a DVD player stuck in backyard made some cars out of cardboard boxes and did a drive in movie night!

#7 Spiritual Conversations

We’ve decided to make Bible reading, praying together as a family (not just at meals), and talking about spiritual matters a normal part of the day in and day out experience of our family. We’ve intentionally chosen to bring the Bible into everyday situations so our kids will grow up knowing that the Scriptures are our sole authority in life, and they speak to every area of our lives. This becomes a normal no-brainer part of our conversation through out the day, not weirdo separatist stuff.

#8 Learn to Talk with and Listen to your Children

Perhaps one of the most difficult skills to learn is actually talking with your kids. I know it sounds bizarre, most of us don’t have a hard time talking to people we work with and interact with all day, but when it comes to talking about real substantive stuff with our own kids we blank out. Learning to ask the right questions and then just listening to your kids is paramount to how you spend your time with your kids. Getting to know your kids, and them getting to know you, takes time and it’s worth it.

Posted in Family, Spiritual Formation

3 Responses to “the quality vs quantity time myth”

  1. Missy Davis July 12, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Thank you for sharing this! I think all the ideas (1 – 8) are outstanding ways to connect as a family. My son is only 17 months, but I want to be prepared for what’s coming ahead and hope to do these things as a family.

  2. Ann Ellis September 7, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Thank your for the very informative article post. Had fun reading this post. Thanks for the tips too, it will serve as my guide.

  3. door knobs September 8, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    I particularly like two of these pointers, getting out of the house and talking with them, I consider them most important from all these above. As time is so short, we must learn how to talk with people aroiund us because oneday we’ll leave and this will remain unfinished if left from a day to another.

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