Take a glimpse into most children’s rooms or homes and you will see that parents dote quite a bit on their children. In homes across the world children are outfitted with fancy brand named clothes, the latest electronics like laptops and video games, as well as innumerous toys and gadgets, bought by parents, in the hopes that their child will have everything they want. It has been the cliché goal of every generation to give their child more than what their parents gave them. Most likely, you have jumped on this bandwagon, remembering yourself how in middle school you were horrified about not having Jordache jeans or being the only senior in high school without a beeper. You never want your child to feel like you did.
Additionally, with so many homes that have two working parents nowadays, parents are often forced to replace time with gifts. The same is true with children of divorced parents. Sadly, all of this gift giving and doing of special things is really a result of misplaced parental guilt. Let’s explain.
How many times do you as a parent, devise a PLAN of spending quality time with your children. For instance, you work all week and then you make grandiose Saturday plans that include a movie, lunch on the town or something extravagant. Or, you work an entire year and save up your money and vacation time in order to take your kids on a funfilled, action packed trip to Disney World. And at every moment you are indulging your child with a gift, an over priced hamburger, or token hoping that they will always have something tangible to remember the experience by. Is this quality time? To some parents, it is. This isn’t necessarily a defunct way of parenting. All parents want to excite their children and offer them things and experiences to fill up childhood. And yes, you probably spend a lot of time apart from your child. But that doesn’t mean that you have make up for your missed time with monetary investments in spending time together.
In fact, quality time can be reading together, making dinner as a family, grocery shopping, and generally spending time together that is not planned, expensive, or extravagant. Spending quality time with your children can be as easy as ten minutes lying in their bed before they go to sleep or watching a favorite movie or television show on weekly basis. If you notice in the pun ‘quality time’, there is no reference to quantity. Just because you spend or do, MORE doesn’t necessarily mean its better.
The bad thing about shedding guilt by providing objects of affection is that it teaches your children to expect too much. It also sends them the message that you feel guilty about something and lessens your parental presence in their life. Eventually, they will understand that they can simply guilt mom and dad into things. Remember that children are clever little things and they know full well when they can manipulate people in their lives to get something they want. Then parents are left scratching their heads and wondering how their kids became so selfish, indulgent, and spoiled. Another downfall, is that this same guilt can overshadow your instinct to discipline.
Look, you aren’t the first parent who excited about seeing their child at the end of the day, is frustrated that they have to correct ill behavior or enforce manners and discipline! The thing is that your children need parents, not friends. And quality time together can often translate into teaching them life lessons, which although harsh – will be much better and easier coming from your bucket of unconditional love. Best of all, your children aren’t going to hate you for it. Sure, they may draw on some of your guilt and say some pretty hurtful things – but in the end, you are the one responsible for shaping the clay.
So, what is spending quality time with your children? It can be a combination of things. In general, it is getting back to the lost human art of being. When you are together with too many plans, events, schedules, distractions and stuff….you aren’t really getting to know your children. It isn’t how we bond as a family during the events in life, but rather how well we connect during ALL of our moments in life. A walk in your yard looking for pinecones can be just as fun and bonding as a Saturday afternoon at the zoo or amusement park. In fact, it is during these moments when our guards are down, and our children are allowed to be just them, that parents can truly experience the full fathom of who their kids are. And likewise, children can see their parents in the nakedness that comes without gifts or guilt, getaways or goings.
Spending quality time with your children can also be about gifts and special events and vacations. The thing is that it shouldn’t have to be planned. You aren’t able to foreshadow a relationship with children or create one through things of monetary value. They may enhance experiences together, but is shouldn’t be the parent-child experience.
Lastly, give up on feeling guilty. No matter what your circumstances are, you are doing the best for your child that you can. And your child will adjust and be just fine as long as you don’t get lost in the gifts and going on’s that can make their life feel like a fairy tale. Just be the real thing. Be their mom and dad. Be there for them. The sooner you accept the way things are, the sooner they will. You will find that finding quality time together is the easy part of raising children and that it often appears in the most unlikely of places and times.