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Dear parents, just 10 minutes of quality time with your children can mean much more than 10 hours

Team ParentCircle Team ParentCircle 12 Mins Read

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As a working parent, you are often left ‘guilty’ at not spending enough time with your child. But remember, 10 minutes can matter much more than 10 hours. A top researcher from a premium institute explains why

Dear parents, just 10 minutes of quality time with your children can mean much more than 10 hours

You walk into your house, exhausted after a long day at work. Your little four-year-old on comes running to you, shouting with excitement, “Mamma, come see the castle I built.” You look around and see pillows, blankets and chairs (from all over the house) fill the hallway. How would you react to such a situation?

a) You get upset at the mess your son has made. You get angry and shout at him to clean up the mess right away.

b) You say that you will take a look at his castle later because you have to go and prepare dinner first.

c) You say that you are tired and need some rest. You will look at his castle later.

d) You drop everything and enter his castle to become the king/queen of his castle.

If you answered ‘d’, then you have established your 10 minutes of connection with your child for the day. If not, you may have missed an easy opportunity to establish the key connection!

As a working parent, when you get home after a busy, tiring day at work, you find yourself with more chores to do – dinner to be made, children to be fed and put to bed, children needing help with homework, laundry to do, mess to be cleaned up, and the list goes on and on. Do you even have the ‘time’ to spend with your children? How will this lack of parent-child time affect them? Take heart - all it really takes is just 10 minutes of your focussed time and attention to connect, bond and build trust with your child.

The guilt of never having enough time

It is a general assumption that the key to a child’s happiness and success depends on the amount of time parents (especially mothers) spend with their child. Add to this the cultural pressures of intensive parenting and the belief that a mother’s time with her child is irreplaceable’ and ‘sacred’. This only raises the standard for what it means to be a ‘good mother’ or a ‘good parent’, thus adding to any working parent’s already heightened guilt and stress.

Many working parents, especially those employed in organizations with long working hours, report feeling guilty at not being able to spend enough time with their children. This guilt, however, can be counter-productive, as studies over the years have consistently shown that a mother’s distress often leads to poor parenting behaviors.

Dr. Melissa Milkie, Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, spent plenty of time studying this subject in her research titled, 'How does the amount of time mothers spend with children matter?' Her study showed that child outcomes in academic achievement,  social skills, emotional well-being, and behavior are unrelated to more maternal time (whether engaged in activities or being accessible to children). A similar study on fathers throws up interesting data -  the amount of time fathers spend with their children is also less important when compared to how much they enjoyed parenting.

Therefore, what’s important for both you and your child’s well-being is building connections and seizing quality moments (not the quantity of time) with your child. Instead of worrying about how many minutes you spend with your child each day, focus on turning those minutes into moments that matter. According to Dr. Dan Siegal, professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of the bestselling book ‘Mindsight’, being there for your child is more important than just doing things for your child.

Parent quote

“As a parent, my role is to give the best to my child, in terms of time as well as exposure to the world. I believe, as a working mom, I am doing justice to my role. I say that because I see my child developing good human values, being happy and excited about life, and keen to explore new learning without fear. So, it is not about how much time you spend with your child, but what you do in the time that you spend.”

– Neha Sharma, a full-time working mother of a 9-year-old

'Being' there for your child

Yes, as a parent, you are constantly doing things for your child and taking care of his needs – getting him ready for school, feeding him, driving him to school and more. But, how often are you actually ‘being’ there for your child, connecting with your child, tuning in to his feelings and sharing each other’s experiences?

Mona, a mother of five-year-old Anya wants to ensure her daughter eats her full meal. So, she turns on the TV and lets Anya watch her favorite cartoon while she feeds her. Anya, completely engrossed in watching the show, gobbles up her entire meal, completely unaware of what she has been eating.

Here, we see Mona ‘doing’ something for her child – she is making sure Anya is well-fed. Instead, what if both Mona and Anya sat together with no TV during mealtimes, experiencing and enjoying the food together while chatting? Then, Mona is not just ‘doing’, she is also ‘being’ there for her child and using that moment to build a parent-child connection.

Moments that matter...

These special moments with your child can be quite unexpected - a good conversation during a car ride, a moment of silly singing and dancing together in the kitchen when a favorite song comes on, a spontaneous pretend game, being stuck in the rain and deciding to jump in puddles together, and more. Or, it can be that moment, at the end of a meltdown, when you manage to say the right thing to your child.

Of course, you can’t have those moments unless you’re together. So, to a small extent, quantity begets quality. You could have had one bad day this week, or a busy few days at work last month. But, when you look at the cumulative time you have spent with your child over a period of a few months, you don’t have to fear the moments you missed. Rather, it is all about the tiny moments of connection you created with your child over this period. It is these seemingly small moments that children tend to remember and recall, long after they may have slipped your memory. These moments deepen your relationship with your child and make her feel important and loved. So, how can you create these meaningful moments of connection?

Parent quote

“I can’t make too much time for my children. But, I do ensure that whenever I get the time, I do activities which my kids want to do - it could be doing a simple drawing, watching them skate, or maybe just listening to them talk about their day.”

-Rohit Khetan, a full-time working father of two

It pays to be mindful

When you end up feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities, it’s easy to slip into an autopilot mode with your child. Even if you are physically together with your child, you could miss out on those precious moments with your child. Why? Because you could be focused on your work, or the few hundred to-dos on your list, or engrossed on your mobile screen. It’s like you never spend time with her at all. Instead, you need to stay in the moment and be mindful.

This will help you remain more attuned to and emotionally connected with your child.

There are many benefits to mindful involvement and spending quality time with your child:

• Emotional: The basis for any parent-child relationship is connection. Parents who try to achieve this connection in little everyday moments help children feel loved and valued. This, in turn, builds a child’s self-esteem and lays a sound foundation for a child’s emotional health.

• Behavioural: Consistently offering positive attention helps parents better understand the needs of their child. Understanding these needs helps even the busiest of parents anticipate mood and behavioral changes in their child. This helps parents prevent and deal with any potential meltdowns or tantrums.

• Physical: When the parent is sensitive and there is a strong connection between parent and child, the child develops a secure attachment with his parent. This, in turn, positively impacts the neurodevelopment of systems, which regulate stress response and other physiological processes such as appetite, sleep, and activity in the child.

It takes just 10 minutes a day

There are many ways in which you can savor the time you spend with your child while juggling your adult life. Here are a few ideas that even the busiest parents will find easy to do:

THE MORNING CONNECT RITUAL

Greet your child in the morning with a warm smile and hug (whatever your mood maybe). This will start the day for you with a special connection with your child.

DOING CHORES TOGETHER

Create an upbeat playlist and enjoy a dance with your young one while you wash the dishes or do laundry together.

COOKING TOGETHER

Cook or bake with your child and in the process, give yourself an extra set of helping hands. More importantly, this will enable you to spend time together, and eat something delicious. If you are worried about the mess, seek your child’s help in cleaning up too.

EVERYDAY RITUAL

Create a special ritual with your child, something that can be accommodated in your busy day. For example, let your child choose and read one book with you at bedtime.

EATING TOGETHER

Never underestimate the power of a simple meal shared together - it brings the family together, gives you the opportunity to share, discuss, and reflect while clocking in precious connection time.

WALKING OR DRIVING TOGETHER

Seasoned parents and child psychologists alike agree that some of the best moments we spend with our children are the ones in which they’re doing something else. As you drive your child to his hobby classes or you walk together to run your errands, it gives you the opportunity to talk about what you’re thinking, what your child is thinking, what you see on the way, who said what to whom in school that day, and more.

JOIN THE FUN

Is your child watching a stream of ants crawl by in the kitchen? Is she chasing butterflies in the garden? Join her in watching the ant parade or chasing the butterflies. Is she jumping in the puddle or splashing in the rain? Join the fun!

FREE PLAY

Just ten minutes of free play with your child, whether it’s chasing him around the house to catch him or becoming a pretend horse will ensure lots of fun, while also establishing the much-needed connection. If you follow your child’s lead, it will help him develop confidence.

PHANTOM TIME

Leave little notes for your child in her lunch box or on the breakfast table – it will make her feel loved and cared for. It will also make your child feel connected to you, even when you’re physically not present.

A LITTLE CAN GO A LONG WAY

Thank your child, for one thing, he did that day – ate without a fuss, finished his homework on time, helped with the dishes, or just for his special smile or hug. Of course, don’t forget to end the day with a little hug and a good night kiss – ‘I love you for just being you’!

With all of these activities, the idea is not to squeeze in any additional time with your child. It is to make the most of (almost) every moment you spend with your child. With your undivided attention and mindful presence, you will build connections and strengthen bonds with your child. You will not only be a wonderful parent but also be the guiding force. You will be quietly teaching your children how to be good adults and better parents themselves, thereby impacting generations to come.

In a Nutshell

  • It is a general assumption that a child’s happiness and success depend on the amount of time parents (especially mothers) spend with their child.
  • Research has consistently demonstrated that the quality of parental involvement is more important for child outcomes than the quantity of time spent (especially for young children).
  • Mindful involvement means being more attuned to and emotionally connected with your child.
  • Spending quality time has multiple benefits for a child’s emotional, behavioral, and physical well-being.
  • Parents should focus on the micro-moments of connection - ‘being’ there for their children versus just ‘doing things for them. It is these tiny moments of connection that children tend to remember and recall. It is what makes them feel important and loved.
  • Quality time can come in many forms - doing chores together, free play, eating together, creating a daily ritual and more. These little 10-minute activities facilitate connection and bonding with your child.

What you can do right away…

  • Think about your own childhood. What special memories do you have of the time you spent with your parents? List at least five of them. How many of these were actually the little everyday micro-moments of connection?
  • List out five special moments you spent with your child.
  • Start your day by greeting each member of your family with a smile.
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