We have had discussions on work/life balance. Is it better to spend a short amount of quality time versus a larger amount of time that is not as high of quality?
I don’t think we do this in other parts of our lives?
If you were learning to read and only spent a short amount of time focusing on it, would you learn it? Probably not, you have to have good quality over a long period of time. It’s actually both that is needed.
How about a marriage? Can a marriage be built and survive by only seeing each other every once in a while?
Can it survive on just living in the same place and seeing each other a lot but never really spending quality time together?
We hear about marriages falling apart because they were too busy or didn’t have enough time for each other or the opposite that they didn’t have any quality time together. Either one is not enough.
What if we have to pick one?
If it’s one for one, my opinion would be that a shorter amount of quality time is better. When we are focused and attentive, you would think the child feels more fulfilled and connected.
If we have a longer time with them but are distracted, on the phone, talking to someone else, etc I would think they aren’t going to feel connected.
There are a few studies that support this. A study by University of Toronto sociologist Melissa Milkie was in the Journal of Marriage and Family published in 2015, found that the amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how the child turns out. This included the children’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being.
However they did find that the more time a teen spends engaged with their mother, the fewer instances of delinquent behavior.
Drs Brazelton and Greenspan, who are child development experts state,
“Nurturing emotional relationships are the most primary foundation for both intellectual and social growth . . . The most important learning in the early years is provided by human interaction. Objects and learning devices do not compare.”
The child who plays internet games, or who is engaged in play activities with non-human devices, will have a differently wired brain than the child who is hugged, listened to, shown delight, and provided with more warm interaction than is demanded. While children’s brain architect is basically similar, how the structures get wired (integrated together) is the result of the child’s experiences with the important people in their lives.
Are we asking the question of quality versus quantity because of guilt? As parents we often feel guilty that we are not spending enough time with our kids.
A study at the University of Oxford found a father’s positive emotional response to parenting during the child’s early years matters more than how much time they spent with them.
The children of fathers who felt good about being a parent and confident in their role during this period were 28 percent less likely to have behavioral problems later on.
So overall we know that the quality of the time is important but so is quantity.
Why do we have to have an argument of which is better? We don’t do that with other parts of our lives so why should we do it with kids? . Can we have a balance of both? That’s the question for each of us to ponder.
The bottom line is that you and your child are going to benefit from spending more connected time together. How much of that that happens depends on your individual situation. Make the most of the time you do have, stop beating yourself up and feeling guilty.