inconvenient truth: quality time vs. quantity of time

Editor’s note: This is a post from guest writer JK.

Sometimes I get to work from home, and although it has its distractions, I love it. Usually my one year old daughter walks up to my chair while I’m sitting at my computer, extends her arms up, and says “Come, Daddy.” That means she wants to sit in my lap, which she does patiently for about 10 minutes at a time while I work on email. She just enjoys being with Daddy and gets down when she’s ready to explore again.

We often hear the phrase “quality time,” in the context of relationships. This might mean a pre-planned, time-limited activity designed to promote fun and bonding. There may well be an implied sense that, “since our time together is limited, let’s make what we do be good!” But how can my toddler sitting in my lap while I checked my email be considered quality time? We didn’t have any verbal interaction. I propose there’s another type of time that has its own value: quantity time. Natalie knows she can come and sit on my lap for as long as she wants any time, even if I’m working. I think she’s going to remember these moments someday, with an attached thought like, “My Dad always had time for me even when he was busy.” Research is beginning to show that even the best-intended efforts to have quality time can’t substitute for quantity of time, particularly with children, and that nurturing time with parents help their brains develop correctly. You can’t schedule when kids happen to be dealing with the issues of life – from early childhood issues like “learning to share” to questions with much bigger consequences like sex, drugs, relationships and peer pressure. When those issues do come up, the consistent loving interactions you have together on a daily basis, even when you’re getting other stuff done, will ensure that your kids know they can come to you.

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