Every busy Dad, at some point, asks himself, “If I can’t give my kids a large quantity of time, is it good enough to give them quality time?”
If you’ve been a dad for any amount of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You work hard to provide for your family, you do the best you can to get your kids to their practices, to school functions, and still spend time with your spouse.
When the day is over, you don’t have much time left to give.
So, let’s talk about time; about quality versus quantity. And let’s talk about how we can give our kids what they need to become emotionally and mentally healthy members of society.
What is Quantity Time?
This one is easy. Quantity time is when you are physically in the same room as your kids. There aren’t any other qualifiers for this – it simply means you are with your children and within earshot of what they might be doing. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?
- Playing on your phone while your child plays on the playground
- Watching the football game while your son plays with his favorite toy
- Sifting through Netflix while your daughter plays with her Barbies
Quantity time has to do with the length of time you spend in the same vicinity as your kids.
What About Quality Time?
Quality time is much different than quantity of time. It’s more complex and requires more focus. Instead of just sitting and watching our favorite show while our children play, this means we get down on the floor to play. It means instead of Netflix, we get down and play Barbies with our daughter, looking her in the eyes to engage with her.
If you’re a romantic, you automatically assume that quality time out-does quantity time all day long. But that may not always be the case. Let’s look at the issue a little more closely.
What Does Science Have to Say?
Let’s get nerdy for a moment. According to neuroscience, it is the experience that molds your child’s brain. Every experience your child has triggers a neuron. This neuron then connects, via synapses, with other neurons, forming permanent patterns in the brain. Every single experience gets hard-wired into their psyche and never goes away.
Within the brain is a region called the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brains responsible for regulating emotions and the unconscious functions of the body. It’s responsible for feelings of empathy, self-awareness, and moral decision-making.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Thanks, Bill Nye. But what does this have to do with our conversation?”
Thanks for asking!
As parents, we have the ability to provide experiences for our children that produce neurons, build synapses, and instill permanent connections in their brains. Because of that, it means we can nurture strong emotional connections that are vital for social and intellectual growth.
But here’s the important part: every child is different! One child might need hours of quantity time while another child might need very little. One kid might prefer quality over quantity or vice versa.
Podcast Ep. 174 Quality of Time vs Quantity Time Spent With Your Child
So which one is best?
Though much has been said about the importance of quality over quantity, more and more researchers are arguing that our kids need both from us. They’ve discovered something we’ve always known: the more involved we are with our kids, whether its quality or quantity, the less likely they are to have emotional, social, and academic problems.
Current science says that merely being with our child is not the most vital aspect of our time with them. And it says that how you spend your time with your child is not the most important part. What that means is – and this is going to sound harsh – this whole conversation tends to be about us.
We tend to ask these questions because we want to know what’s best for us. But the reality is every kid is different and needs something different from their parents.
So, the question, “What’s best? Quantity time or quality time?” is the wrong one to ask. The appropriate question to ask is,
“What’s the best kind of time I can give to my kid based on how he or she is wired?”
Your answer to that question will help you determine how to parent in a way that resonates with the needs of your child.