Today’s parents are hearing mixes messages from the media. On one hand they read a headline conveying time spent with kids doesn’t pay off. Then they read another article maintaining meaningful time with our kids is vital!
Who is right?
We hear terms like “helicopter parenting” or “overparenting”… and we get scared. “Am I doing too much?” Sadly, this almost gives parents license to back off completely and let kids raise themselves. After all… “I don’t want to be one of those tiger parents!”
It’s only worse if we turn on the TV because then we’ll see examples of parents who let their kids do “whatever they want.” It’s the Hollywood way.
So what’s the answer?
One of the biggest problems seeking discernment here is just reading headlines. Headlines are very misleading. I know, because I write them all the time.
Headlines try to capture your attention and hook you just long enough to get you to possibly read the first few lines of the article. Often, the truth on the matter is a few paragraphs in. And if you read most parenting articles on this subject you’ll probably find they all land on one common denominator: meaningful time with our kids.
Take the two articles I linked above. The first one seems to convey that “quantity time” doesn’t help our kids, and they link studies to show you that parents are actually spending even more time with their kids daily (123 minutes for moms, and 59 minutes for dads) than ever before. But then the article contends that this might not be a good thing.
Why? Because many of these parents are merely chauffeuring or chaperoning. They have minimal intimate interaction.
This research isn’t anything new. Last year I wrote an article with a similar catchy headline, “Quantity Time Doesn’t Help Our Kids,” with research to support it. But that article unveiled two very interesting elements:
- This was only in kids age 3-11. Quantity time with adolescents actually helps. (Seriously, take a peek for yourself.)
- Mere proximity doesn’t help our kids. We need to put the phone down, notice our kids, and engage in meaningful dialogue. Bonding 101. Bonding makes a huge difference.
Compare that research (from both those articles) with articles that might seem to suggest the contrary, and you’ll discover they say the same thing: meaningful interaction makes a difference.
So what can parents glean from these common denominators in these articles and studies with conflicting headlines?
Here are four practices I find helpful that I don’t see many parenting experts disagreeing with:
- When you’re hanging out with your kids… actually hang with your kids! It doesn’t help your kids to just drag them to the grocery store and the bank, ignoring them the whole time.
- Look for opportunities to do activities they enjoy. If you have to take your kids to the bank, maybe stop by the park and push them on a swing, or get a scoop of their favorite ice cream. Notice the activities they enjoy and interact with them during these times.
- Create tech-free zones where communication naturally takes place. Entertainment media and technology are one of the most prominent roadblocks to healthy communication today. Search for ways to connect with your kids where technology doesn’t get in the way.
- Understand that kids don’t just learn values from our boundaries. In fact, bonding moments create amazing opportunities to engage in conversations about stuff that matters. Don’t get me wrong, boundaries are healthy… especially with our young kids. But your daughter will probably learn far more about what she should and shouldn’t post on her phone from conversations with you than the blocks you put on her phone.
Overparenting isn’t a result of too much time… it’s a result of rules without a relationship.
What would your kid love to do with you today?
What are you still sitting here for?
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.