Organizational specialist reviewing research on human development and advising many families. For parents who want to spend more quality time with their children, here are five tips.
I see you, parent, optimistic. In your career and personal life, you have always been capable of working hard and meeting your goals. You add the same commitment and effort to help your kids do things right now that you’re a parent.
Your household may be (or similar to) a well-oiled machine, and you may have an intricate system to ensure that your children do their homework, eat their lettuce, have enough sleep, and make it a better time for soccer. First of all, consider yourself very lucky if this sounds like your reality. However, you can’t help but feel that nobody— not you or the kids— seems to have plenty of time to interact. It’s all the time going-go.
THE “RESPONSIBLE DOER” DILEMMA
I spent four years analyzing human development studies (and training parents from around the world for almost 30 years) in depth. I’m a single mother, too. I’ve incorporated these observations to create a simple parenting system, part of which is a parent profile. I call parents in the category above the “good doer.” (To be fair, not all high-end parents fall into that category, though many do.)
Responsible doers are extremely productive and very structured — they love the feeling that tasks are crossed off a to-do list. As a result, they find it difficult to slow down to their children’s pace. There are, after all, no checklists on how to communicate with your child psychologically.
My client Joci is a responsible doer from the textbook who has had a successful financial career. She served as a man throughout the day, rushing home to have dinner on the table, cleaning up, assisting her daughter with her hobbies and going to bed, and doing another turn down her to-do list. She repeated it the next day all over again.
Joci felt too much pressure to sleep her daughter, Nina, by 9 p.m. Because she simply didn’t spend relaxing weekend time with Nina — except nagging and keeping trains going on schedule. Joci’s approach to parenting has taken a toll on their marriage.
This is not the way modern working parenthood ought to be. You can have an orderly, secure home with your children and deep connections. It is not guilty to find a deep sense of accomplishment in your work as long as your children never feel like you love your work rather than like it. It is worth pointing out, of course, that women tend to be more complicit than men. Society blames women for not sharing enough time with their children, as economist Emily Oster wrote. At the very same time, if they leave the office early to pick up their children from work, they doubt the devotion of women to their jobs.
As a mother, if you feel that doing stuff for your kids — instead of just being with your kids — is occupying any moment at home, you may want to consider looking at these things.
WERE YOU CONNECTED TO YOUR KIDS OR ARE YOU TRYING TO DO ALL THE TIME?
I mean to spend time in their world about your kids, doing whatever they want to do. You usually get plenty of invites if your kids are young, “Come on, Dad, watch me!”If your kids are teens, you definitely want to see more possibilities in their world. Teaching is quite another (and equally important) aspect of parenting–whether it’s a sandwich, a hand-shaking or how money works. As a parent, confusing the two is far too easy, and when you’re actually teaching, you think you’re related, and that can help you feel less connected.
Here’s a quick way of describing the difference: you’re taking your child into the adult world when you’re teaching, and they’re your student. As you connect, you enter the world of your daughter, and you become the child’s pupil. Relating means spending time with your child on subjects or things of interest. And if that suggests doing something that bores you, which means you need to learn to understand what your child finds so entertaining. You might even learn from them one or two things.
FOCUS ON UNDIVIDED ATTENTION BURSTS
Working parents (especially mothers) sometimes feel so guilty that they’re gone all day. As a result, they say they will pay undivided attention to their kids every minute they are not at school. That’s a burden that means less time for anything else, and that’s not needed. It points out that kids flourish in shorter bursts (five to 20 minutes) of full attention (which you consistently deliver), rather than large chunks of time you just provide rarely. And put down your phone and give all your focus to your children’s shorts bursts. There’s not a lot of the time they need. They need to engage you.
CHANGE THE NATURE OF THE CHANGE WITH YOUR KIDS
If you’re working outside the home, you’ll probably have about five big transitions in the day with your kids. We wake up, get out of the house, reunite at the end of the day, dinner, and bedtime. My theory is that you waste most of that time making to get them to do it, like putting their boots on or encouraging them to eat their vegetables.
This can lead to a lot of friction— and not much happening. Kids deserve their parents ‘ love, and they’re going to get it anyway. Instead of guiding, go against your instincts that are’ ever-productive’ and just’ be.’ Changing the flavor of time you spend, even 15 minutes— playing, reading or stupid — is fun and can make everything you have to accomplish easier.
MAKE MINDFUL TRANSITIONS
Throughout changes, most partnerships abandon the tracks. How many times did you walk in the door at the end of a phone call or return an email? Maybe by shouting you started the day — hurry up! Stay dressed! — Rather than a good morning?
Don’t do it. Make sure to set your goal before passing the threshold. On the other side of that gate, what would you like to communicate? Use each reconnection point’s first few moments with your children to show them how delighted you are to see them. Reach their world by questioning how they were doing, how their day went, whether they found that day interesting, amusing, or frustrating.
As for Joci, she took to heart these ideas and incorporated them into her routine at night. Stepping off the button of the gas made her anxious, but it succeeded to her great surprise. Nina reacted to the water like a rose. The extra downtime deepened their relation to each other, and Jocelyn’s attempts to run a tight ship were not compromised.
As Elizabeth Alterman had previously written on the Muse, “managing all this may make you feel like you’re going through a broad divide.” Just bear in mind, it’s not a question of checking things off the list to relate to your son. This is about taking a step back from time to time and enjoying each moment— big or small— you have together with your children.