In Focus: Being a good parent requires lots of time

January 27, 2013 

If I had my child to raise all over again, I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later. I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I'd take more hikes and fly more kites. I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I'd do more hugging and less tugging.

-- Diane Loomans

Diane Loomans' words above beautifully capture the critical importance of simply spending time with our children -- lots of time.

Many parents realize this too late in life. Child development experts will tell you that by spending this time with them, we are naturally guiding, encouraging and teaching them by example. Almost 80 percent of what kids learn is done in this way.

At the same time, our children are learning from us how to build strong, healthy relationships, which they can use in their own lives and teach to their children.

The more time we parents and caring adults spend with a child, the more we are apt to glimpse the tremendous potential that they possess -- a potential we as parents and professionals too often underestimate, hinder and sometimes even squelch without knowing.

There is usually a fine line between a healthy home environment and one that squelches the potential of our children. Which side of the line we fall on depends on a few simple parenting practices to be used during the daily interaction with our children and on putting aside specific time for them.

This is even more critical for those children labeled as attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity or kids considered to be on the margin socially.

Studies in the past couple decades have clearly shown the profound influence our childhood experiences have on our success later in life.

Our ability to create outer success and our ability to be happy and fulfilled inside are heavily influenced by early childhood circumstances and the kind of daily interaction we had with our parents and the adults close to us.

That love and caring message we demonstrate to our children is spelled T-I-M-E. Given all that a typical parent and child juggles these days, it has become increasingly difficult for parents to find sufficient time for their kids.

That is why we parents must find ways to schedule our week so as to find more one-on-one time for our kids. We also need to find ways to allow our children to spend time with other caring adults whom we trust will provide a positive example, whether it be a relative, a church youth group or organization that specializes in the mentoring of kids.

Please do not fall for the fallacy that spending minimal time with a child is sufficient as long as it's quality time! For one thing, quality time only can be judged from our child's perspective. We do not have a magic wand to turn time into quality time; so we simply need to spend lots of time -- period.

Children today are confronted with an overwhelming barrage of negative advertising, news, video games and TV.

Because of this overwhelming influence, it has become absolutely critical that the adults who care for these children not only reduce and filter these negative influences as much as practical, but aslo spend a significant amount of time with them in order to counter the negative aspects of modern life and pass on your cherished values.

As parents and adults of our community who have the responsibility (and, yes, the good fortune) to guide, teach, mentor and encourage our own children and the children of our neighbors, let us work together to help promote parents and caring adults to spend more time with kids.

Let us also work together to ensure that parents and caring adults have easy access to information and programs that result in our children getting the effective parenting and mentoring they need to grow into productive adults, to experience the life they deserve and pass these positive qualities on to the children in their lives.

w Mark Murphy is president of Mid-Columbia Parenting.

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