We hope you liked our last year’s series with the joys of…… If you have not gone through everything, you will always find it again in older posts.
In the meantime, we feel compelled to share more articles in support for busy parents. Therefore our new series titled Prime-Time-Parenting is tailored to bring your parenthood to top notch quality. Without further ado we let the article speak for itself.
PRIME-TIME PARENTING!–By Kay Kuzma
Prime-Time Parenting will teach you how to get the biggest benefits from the limited time you have to spend with your children. You can work & be a successful parent. It is possible to combine a paying job–even a demanding career–with the job of parenting, & raise healthy, happy, competent children. But it isn’t easy. And there are no magic formulas that produce immediate success. Just as you must study & strive to become more skilled at your “job-for-pay,” you must be willing to study & strive to become more skilled at your prime-time parenting job. This book is an essential starting place.
QUALITY-TIME TOGETHER: THE KEY TO SUCCESS
Time is a precious commodity in which we all have been served an equal portion. How we choose to spend that time is our decision. Time can be wasted or invested. As I see it, there are two ways to invest our time. One is in the building of things–better jobs, a good reputation, a clean house, professional competence, a new home, a gourmet meal, a vacation by the lake, a summer cottage, or an extra TV set. The other is in building of relationships–with oneself, a spouse, children, family & friends.
You may have a lifetime to build relationships with friends, neighbours, or even a spouse. But the critical time to build a meaningful relationship with your children is limited to the few short years they are growing up in your home.
How much time should parents spend with their children? The amount of time a child needs to develop to his optimum capacity cannot be measured in minutes & hours. It can only be measured in the child’s total physical & psychological well-being. If you were to err in the amount of time you give your child, err on the side of too much time rather than too little.
Here is the dilemma. The ideal child-bearing time is between the ages of twenty-one & twenty-nine when the female body is at the peak of its performance to insure a healthy, normal baby. However, this is also the very worst time period for most young parents to find the extra hours needed to care for & nurture their offspring. In most families Mom & Dad find themselves the busiest during the very years that their children’s needs are the greatest.
During these critical child-rearing years, parents who choose to invest some of their time in responsibilities outside the home must commit themselves to quality time together with their children if they wish to build a solid parent-child relationship. Such a commitment involves two key ingredients:
1) Parents must carve out as much time as possible for the family; &
2) they must use that time as effectively as possible.
Quality Time Together versus Negative & Nothing Time Together. Every minute that you spend with your children is prime time. You’re on stage, so to speak, influencing & teaching them by your words & behaviour–whether you want to or not. So, in parent-child relationships, spending time together is not enough. To make that time meaningful it must be quality time. Careful thought & planning must be a prerequisite for successful parenting.
There are three ways in which parents & children can use time together. Q.T.T–quality time together–is the key to success. The other two types are N.T.T.s–negative time together & nothing time together.
N.T.T. #1–negative time together–is deadly to parent-child relationships. Such time is filled with discord, dissension, & conflict. The home, the car, or anyplace where the family assembles can become a battleground. Although the primary weapons are usually words, it is not uncommon for “fists” to follow.
N.T.T. #2 refers to nothing time together. Although the family is “together,” or at least in close proximity, & there is no outward conflict, the TV is blaring, the dog is barking, & Dad has barricaded himself in the study to do the income tax. Mom has been gossiping on the phone for an hour. Her message to Junior is, “Go outside & play & don’t bother me today!” Nothing time together may not destroy relationships as quickly as negative time together, but it does eventually tear them down, & certainly does nothing to build or repair them.
Q.T.T. is the most important factor in building healthy & wholesome parent-child relationships. Q.T.T. may be a noisy family celebration; a quiet evening at home listening to daughter practice her music–correcting her when necessary; a sleepless night nursing a fevered child; a holiday spent cleaning out the garage; or an hour spent in animated discussion of a family problem. Whatever the activity, quality time together should convey several all-important messages: “I love you,” & “I want to be close to you,” “I enjoy you,” “You’re fun to be with.”
Putting Quality Time Together into Practice. The importance of quality time together can hardly be disputed, yet agreeing with the concept is much easier than consistently putting it into practice. It is easier to know what you should do than to take the time to do it.
How do you determine whether a child is receiving enough parental time? If he is old enough, ask him. In a recent survey eleven-year-olds were asked this very question. Over 50 percent of the children with working mothers said they wished their mothers would spend more time with them. But the surprising finding was that approximately 30 percent of the children whose mothers were classified as “nonworking” wished the same thing! Apparently this is not just a working parent’s problem!
Negative behaviour is often a sign of parental time deficiency. Young children equate love with parental attention. If they do not receive their fill of positive attention, they sometimes resort to behaviour that will, without question, bring negative attention. In their way of thinking, even negative attention is better than no attention at all. Therefore, parents must learn to distinguish the hidden meaning behind a child’s action.
Preschoolers generally thrive on parental time. A ten-year-old, on the other hand, may be happy with an audience for her memorised tuba solo, a fifteen-minute rough-&-tumble session, & a good-night kiss.
There is no single pattern that all children follow. To fill a child’s need for parental time successfully, you must tune in to your child & fill a need as it surfaces. There is one important rule to remember: Ignoring a need for parental time will only increase the intensity of that need.
Make Parenting an Equal-Status Career. Parenting is the most important career a mother or father can pursue. It has critical, deep-seated, & long-term effects. In this one career no one else can substitute for you with the same degree of meaning. No one can ever really take your place. Yet, in our society, parenting has been relegated to a rather low-status position because it doesn’t measure up on those variables that usually determine status.
A low-status career often negatively affects the attitude of the worker. If you feel parenting is a second-rate job & therefore unworthy of your time, your best efforts, & your full attention, you will do a second-rate job.
The only answer to the problem is to give parenting equal status with other careers. Nothing can equal the value of a child’s life!
Specifically, if you view parenting as an equal-status career, you will:
- Prepare for your employment. Learn all you can about child development, discipline, & methods of effective parenting. When you prepare for your parenting career thoughtfully, you will do a better job & enjoy it more.
- Devote adequate time to the career to assure success. Don’t just rely on the few minutes of leftover time from another career.
- Perform as a professional. When you accept a job that you hope to keep, your behaviour must be professional. Plan & organise your job of parenting as you would execute your professional career. It will make the job easier & it will also help to insure Q.T.T.
If you, as a prime-time parent, consider your parenting job as an equal-status career, then you will more readily see that time you spend with your children is time put to the highest use.
Take Advantage of “Wasted” Time. A prime-time parent can create more Q.T.T. by utilising time that must be spent with children to the fullest advantage. Young children must be washed, diapered, clothed & cuddled. Older children have to be chauffeured, chaperoned & disciplined. Parents who are eager to use their skills to reach above & beyond the fulfillment of these basic needs sometimes feel that these common daily chores are a waste of time. But are they really?
It is the time we “waste” with (& for) our children that will assure a good relationship with them & convince them of our love. This time has to be given joyfully with our wholehearted interest in their affairs. Never let your child think that you would rather be doing something else (although you may need to do something else), or that you feel you are wasting your time when you are with him.
One evening my friend Marilyn was in the midst of preparing gravy for dinner when her teenage son rushed into the kitchen shouting, “Mom, come outside quickly. I’ve got something to show you.”
There is a critical point in the preparation of gravy when it must be stirred in order to have a smooth consistency. Marilyn, who is a gourmet cook & relishes the thought of a perfect dinner, was at that critical preparation point & almost said, “Can’t you wait a minute? I’ve got to finish stirring the gravy.” But an inner sense said, “Go.” After all, it had been weeks since her son had asked her anything–or even wanted to be with the family. So she turned off the stove, removed the gravy, & went outside. Her son pointed to the western horizon & exclaimed, “Mom, look at that sunset! Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?” They both watched until the last rays disappeared.
A wasted moment? It may have seemed so, if smooth gravy is the thing you value most in your life. But as this mother said, “I’d eat lumpy gravy every night of the week to have that kind of daily experience with my teenager. After all, gravy soon disappears, but the relationship I establish with my son can last a lifetime.”
Diapering, feeding, dressing, or bathing the young child:–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
- Talk (and listen) to the child.
- Pay full attention to the child with eye contact & touch.
- Encourage the child to participate.
- Teach the child something with each encounter (how to count, recognise colours etc.)
- Tell the child something that will build a healthy self-concept.
- Play games (when appropriate).
- Use this time to observe the child carefully.
- Convey your enjoyment of the experience.
Doctoring scratches & bruises:–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
- Be helpful.
- Sympathize: Say, “I know it hurts.”
- For younger children who want it, apply a bandage whether needed or not.
- Give a hug, a kiss, or a love pat.
- Be willing to hold them for a few minutes.
- Accept appropriate crying. Ignore the inappropriate.
- Do something. Apply ice, blow the hurt away, hold it under cold water etc.
- Tell them about a similar incident that happened to you.
- Pray with the child.
Practicing musical instruments:–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
- Let him know you are always willing to help.
- Show you are interested by saying, “When you are ready for an audience, I’d love to listen.”
- Sit down next to the child & listen for a few minutes even without an invitation.
- Focus your full attention on the child while you listen.
- Find something positive to say.
- If you think you have some helpful criticism, cushion it by asking if the child wants advice.
- Plan a performance time for the whole family.
- Let the child overhear you telling another family member how well he is doing–but be honest.
- When the child is discouraged, help him over a rough spot.
- Attend the music lesson occasionally–if the child wants you to.
- If you can, play something with the child.
Housecleaning (cleaning one room):–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
- Work together in close proximity so you can communicate.
- Sing as you work.
- Tell a story or an experience that happened at work.
- Make a game out of it.
- Have a tea party when finished–just the two of you.
- Compliment the child on something specific.
- Plan a surprise for another member of the family together.
- Make a cassette recording for the relatives by chatting back & forth while you work.
- Offer advice judiciously.
- Don’t expect perfection.
Preparing meals or washing dishes:–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
- Let the child help with the planning.
- Encourage the child to make one dish alone.
- Make a point of telling the family about the dish your child prepared.
- Don’t rush. Plan a meal that is simple enough to prepare in the time allotted.
- Don’t expect perfection.
- When mistakes are made, don’t rub it in. Laugh, help clean up the mess, or tell the child about a similar incident when you made an even bigger mess.
- Find a kitchen job that fits the interest & skills of the child.
- While you are working, encourage the child to pull up a chair & read to you.
- Have the children do their homework at the kitchen table while you are working, so you can be available to answer a question if they need you.
- Work together on the dishes & clean-up.
- Surprise the child occasionally by doing one of his routine kitchen jobs for him.
Exercising & jogging:–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
- Do it together.
- Find something the whole family enjoys.
- Talk as you exercise.
- Exercise with one child alone. Make this your special time together.
Shopping:–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
- Take the kids along (sometimes one at a time for a special outing with Mom).
- Give each child a list & have them find the right items.
- Teach them how to compare prices.
- Let them purchase something special that they want (within reason).
Schedule Time Together–How to Redeem Low-Quality Time
For many parents, job obligations become so pressing that they take more & more time away from the family. In addition, when a man spends so little time with his young children that they hardly know him, the children will tend to seek out mother for help & attention & may actually reject their father’s offers of help. Unless Dad is highly motivated to change the situation, he may leave more & more of the parenting responsibilities to Mom as he finds rewards & success in his career. When this happens, his wife & children see less & less of him & may begin to resent his career. They may even interpret the time he devotes to this career as an indication of his lack of love & concern for them.
Scheduling quality time together may be the only way busy families can ever find time for each other. But scheduling is just the first step. Keeping the appointment is equally important.
Connie Gils had this problem. She had a demanding job as an executive for a large international firm. She kept all of her important appointments in her “little black book.” Whenever her children wanted to do something special with her, she would take out her book to see if the time was free. In the majority of cases, she would have to shake her head & say, “No, kids, I’m sorry. I already have an important appointment.”
One day her son asked, “Mommy, do you think I’m an important appointment?”
“Well, yes, I do, Son,” she stammered.
“Then why don’t you write my name down in your book?”
Connie couldn’t argue with that so she handed the appointment book to the children. “You kids decide what you want me to do with you & then find a time that is empty & write it down. Then it will become one of my very important appointments.”
By planning time with her children weeks & months in advance she found it easier to schedule her business appointments around the children. She would just pull out her appointment book & if there was a conflict she would say, “I’m sorry, I have a previous commitment!” Those appointments to go backpacking, deep-sea fishing, rafting down the river, horseback riding, & stargazing are now among the family’s most meaningful memories.
Every family should set aside a regularly scheduled family time with which nothing is allowed to interfere. I suggest a once-a-week STAFF meeting. (That is S.T.A.F.F., as in “Steps to Active Family Fun.”) You may find it difficult to turn down the chairman of the church nominating committee when he says, “We must meet Tuesday night,” if you tell him that you had planned to pop popcorn & bob for apples with your children. But if you say, “Sorry, I have a STAFF meeting that night,” he seldom will persist.
When you begin to schedule quality time together, it is important that you & your child do those things that have the most meaning. List all of the family’s favorite activities. Brainstorm. Then rank these items from the most important to the least important. Finally, schedule those items that have a high priority. If you schedule only the easiest activities, or those that take the least effort or time, you probably won’t be able to do the most important ones.