“Quality Time” vs. “Quantity Time” in Parenting

Is the quality of time I spend with my family more important than the quantity?

We don’t think so. A few years ago family experts were preaching that what’s important is “quality time,” not “quantity time.” More recent research shows that kids need both with their parents. In fact, the more involved parents are with their children – and the word “more” here is used with direct reference to the concept of quantity – the less likely they are to have social, emotional, or academic problems, use drugs or alcohol, become involved in crime, or engage in premarital sex.

It’s important to realize that it’s not always possible to plan meaningful interactions between parent and child. Such serendipitous moments can’t be cooked up and crammed into a few minutes of “quality time” every day. Many critical opportunities to teach or model moral values may catch you off-guard and will be gone in the blink of an eye. You can’t seize the moment if you’re not there to do the seizing. And that means spending lots of “quantity” time together with your kids.

Without more detailed information about your family situation it’s hard to know exactly what else to tell you. But your inquiry leads us to believe that you may need to re-examine your priorities. The fact that you’re thinking in terms of “quality” vs. “quantity” suggests that you may be looking to justify spending smaller amounts of time with your family. Is this supposition anywhere near the truth?

If you’re not sure, you can put the matter to the test by asking yourself a few simple questions. Is your employment outside the home a matter of providing for basic needs, or are you driven by materialistic desires or a longing for personal significance? Are there any aspects of “maintaining a household” that you can afford to sacrifice? Do you attach a greater value to status or appearance than to the well-being of the people with whom you share your life? After all, a spotless home isn’t nearly as important as a close relationship with your spouse and children.

Another suggestion: one of the easiest ways to make more time for loved ones is to turn off the TV. In the average American home, the television is on 49 hours a week. By way of contrast, the average amount of time that both parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children is 39 minutes a week. If you need more time with your spouse and your kids, make the obvious choice. Instead of watching TV, read together, play board games together, take a walk to a local park, or sit and talk.

If you have children, it’s also important to avoid the temptation to get them overly involved in activities outside the home. Some parents feel pressure to sign their children up for numerous sports teams, music and dance lessons, social clubs, and all kinds of community organizations. Don’t fall prey to this mindset. Kids don’t need a dozen different weekly activities. They need quality and quantity time with loving, involved, and committed parents.

We hope these few suggestions have been helpful. If you’d like to discuss this subject at greater length, call our Counseling department for a free consultation.


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