Balanced Life

How to Fail at Spending Quality Time with Your Kids

You’re busy. I know you’re busy.

You’ve got so much on your plate that you simply don’t have time to sit around a lot and hang out with your kids. So you try to be effective with the time that you do have. Rather than sitting on the couch watching TV, you spend those precious few minutes playing catch with your son or having a tea party with your daughter.

And you can pat yourself on the back for being a good parent. Right?

In Point Man, Steve Farrar makes the following point about “quality time.”

You know the old debate about time, don’t you? “Quality time” versus “quantity time.” There are some well-meaning parents who realize that their careers take too much away from the family. So they emphasize “quality time.” In their minds, their work is simply too demanding to have “quantity time.” So they make sure the time they do have with their families is “quality.”

That sounds good. But it has one fatal error. You never know when quality time is going to show up. Quality time isn’t the norm. Quality time is when you can talk heart to heart with your kids. Quality time is when your son asks you a serious question completely out of left field as you are trimming the bushes together. Quality time is when you’re putting your daughter to bed at night, and she asks you to tell her a story about when you were a kid. And she will remember that story for the rest of her life.

Quality time comes at the most unusual moments. You never know when it will happen. It usually makes an appearance someplace in the realm of quantity time.

Ouch. Did Farrar sting you on that one?
He got me pretty good.

It’s easy for us to define quality time by our terms. The effort that we put into it. The benefit that we think our kids should be receiving.

But what exactly is quality time?

Is quality time when your child knows that you are spending time specifically with them – when they feel important? Is it, as Farrar mentions, a heart-to-heart conversation with your kids? Is it your kids observing your faithful witness in a variety of situations?

I think the answer is all of the above. Quality time comes in different flavors. Going to Disneyworld may be one. Cleaning out the garage together is another flavor. Maybe it’s a hug after a tough day. Maybe it’s dinnertime conversation.

The point is that we can’t define quality time in whatever way happens to fit best into our schedule. The worst way to spend quality time with your kids is to have no idea what quality time is in the first place.

As hard as it may be, quality time takes time.

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