7 Clever Ways To Give More Time To Your Kid(s)
7 Clever Ways To Give More Time To Your Kid(s)
I want to give my kids the very best life I can give them.
Which is why I give them my time.
Time is our most precious commodity. Nothing says, ‘I love you’ to your kids like spending time with them.
Relax, this post is not a guilt-trip. The stats say that half of parents already feel guilty for not spending more time with kids. What I’d like to do is reduce that guilt by helping us actually spend more time with our kids.
But how? What can dads and moms do to spend more time with our kids?
In this post I will share 7 ways, and then in the next post, the other 7.
1. Stay motivated by reminding yourself why.
In the midst of life’s demands, urgent things easily eclipse important things.
Spending time with kids is usually not urgent. Our daily motivation to do so is displaced by a hundred other things you want to or must do with your life.
The best way to stay motivated to be with our kids is through self-talk.
When my motivation to be with my kids is low I tell myself…
‘Terran, give more of your time to your kids. It’s the only way:
- they will feel loved by you.
- you will really get to know them.
- to build a strong family.
- to live regret-free.
In fact, this is the one area of life where you can legitimately achieve legend status – in the eyes of the people who matter the most to you.’
Why don’t you try it. Replace my name with yours. See if you feel your motivation levels rising.
(By the way, this little self-speech is the tip of the iceberg. Check out two blogs I wrote before on 5 reasons to spend time with your kids, and 6 myths that cause us to spend less time with them.)
The bottom line is that time is short.
Fellow parent, I know you’re tired and the days are long when you’ve got kids. But the years are really short. In my home for example, with 5 kids getting older by the day, birthdays whizz pass at mach speed. Just think, there are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her being done with school! That might seem a lot, but if your child is 5, over 250 of them are gone!
Time is really the best gift you can give your child.
How many of us rationalize our lack of time with our kids because we are trying to give them other things. By the way, once you’re done with this post, read this one – it went viral. In it, you will see the futility of getting our kids into better homes and better schools and more elite circles of society, or pushing our kids into one achievement after another. They don’t need those things as much as they need our presence.
2. Ruthlessly prioritize.
Rob Parsons, in his book ‘The 60 minute family’ writes this:
‘We read or hear about those people who seem to squeeze it all in: a high-powered career, sitting on the board of an NPO, read stories to their kids each night, bake cakes that would make Jamie Oliver salivate. But the truth is that we can’t squeeze it all in. Every choice of time we make precludes another choice we might have made. The idea that you can have it all and do it all is a myth. Supermon or Superdad doesn’t exist. You can wear your undies on the outside, but you still can’t fly.’
We simply cannot pursue everything we would like to. We need to take control of our time, and ruthlessly cut stuff out. We cannot do it all.
Prioritizing will mean saying no. Max Lucado tells of his meteoric rise into writing and speaking success…
‘More and more calls came in from all over the world, wanting me to speak at conferences, and grand openings of business and supermarkets. It was hard to say no at first. I felt every opportunity was divine. But then I realized that every time I said yes to something, I had to say no to something else. I call it ‘The Law of Inverse Dynamics’ – with every yes in your schedule, there is an equal and opposite no reaction. When I said yes to another speaking engagement, I said no to another family dinner. When I said yes to another meeting, I said no to my girl’s volleyball game. When I said yes to another book tour, I said no to taking a walk with my wife.’
Prioritizing will mean getting more organized. How much of our busyness in life comes from a failure to plan, work smart, delegate or stay focused. If we’re always, or even often, taking our work home, we have to honestly ask ourselves, ‘How did this happen? Was I really as busy today as I felt? How much of my time was spent doing unimportant things?’
I hate to say it, because the shoe fits me so often, but when my life is over-busy it is not really because I am working hard, rather I am working dumb.
3. Grab daily gaps with your kids.
In a previous blog, I suggest ways to maximize the 90 minutes or so that a working parent will get with their younger children most weekdays. That’s worth a read. Let me add a few more ideas that come to mind…
Tinker in the same room. A recent study showed that the average configuration of a nuclear family after work hours is the mom and kids in one room, and the dad tinkering on his own in another room. As a fellow dad, I know the need to tinker, but let’s at least tinker in the same room as our children.
Take them on errands. If you’re shooting to the shop for a DVD or bread or whatever, take a child with you.
Eat together. In my house, I get to have breakfast with the older kids. Julie and the twins are usually at another stage of getting ready. By lunch time we scatter to the four winds. But then, most nights in a week, we do dinner together.
Do chores together. I admit, I suck at house chores personally, so I am struggling to consistently enthuse my kids to do them, but I have enough friends who say doing chores together with their kids rocks.
Play together. In my family, we do Five Alive a few times per week. At five o clock, we mess around in the garden, or skate and bike in a nearby cul-de-sac, or drive to a park or vineyard or something. Our favourite of late has been enjoying a nearby Botanical Garden. All because some kind people gave us an annual family pass. (Grandparents, now that’s a nice gift.)
4. Don’t miss the special events in your kid’s life.
Never miss a birthday if you can help it. Organize your work and travel schedule around these days.
There’s also school concerts and matches. It’s amazing how many adult men I speak to who say that, when they were kids, their dad was the best, and then provide but one argument to prove it: ‘My dad always came to watch me play or perform.’
There’s many ways to show people we believe in them. We could say it, for example. But the best way?
To show up.
Show up at their games.
It may not be possible to make each one, but it’s sure worth the effort. If we can’t make special days, we might need to apologize meaningfully and then make up for it somehow.
5. Develop your parenting muscle.
Spending time with kids is hard work, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
It all has to do with muscle.
I have five kids, but I honestly empathize with parents who have only one. That’s because I remember how hard it was to parent one.
I compare parenting to surfing in this regard. To learn how to surf you need to form a whole new set of muscles that other sports don’t provide. The more you surf, the easier it becomes. Same with parenting. You need to form a new muscle set. Given enough years and children, it is amazing how much more we can cope with on any given day. What was once very difficult comes easier with repeated effort.
For example, here are two kinds of parenting muscle.
Develop the muscle to arrive with style. After a long day at work, and a long time in the traffic on the way home, the average parent is blunt by the time they walk in that door.
But we simply cannot afford to walk in that door to kids who are chomping at the bit to see us, and not be all there.
I propose a simple ritual: just before walking in that door, psych yourself up. My one buddy drives around the block a few times for example to change gears mentally. I prefer to just park my car somewhere near home for a few minutes – I close my eyes, try switch my brain off for a few minutes, and also pray for God’s help. Then I walk in, and announce with enthusiasm: ‘Dad’s here!’ Then I kiss and hug everyone.
Develop the muscle to stay mentally present. At the heart of the ‘mindfulness’ movement that has swept the West in the last decade is the idea that autopilot is the enemy. We tend to go through the motions of life (and interacting with people, including our spouses and our kids) while our minds are elsewhere. I have begun to wonder if a body that is present with a mind that is absent is much better than a body that is absent (my wife may or may not have wondered this out loud too, several times, while burning holes into my vacant gaze). Instead we should develop the ability to see our kids, to hear them, interact with them. Sure, some days we will be too shattered to be present. Don’t beat up on yourself. But let’s try limit those days. If they’re the norm, something must change. If it’s stress, then let’s find a way to reduce stress, or switch off whatever device is taking our mind away from our magnificent kids in those final hours of their day.
6. Switch off your phone when you get home.
Screens are the enemy of being present in general. With our phone in hand or even pocket, we communicate to our own minds that we are available to it. We also communicate to our kids that we are not fully present to them. Imagine how different the quality of your family life would be if every day, you just put that thing off and away. Then after your kids hit the sack, pull it out and answer any Whatsapps you might have received. You can do that in ten minutes. Then put it off again and be present to your spouse, who has also put their phone off.
I really think our phones are weapons of mass distraction.
I also think that it’s personal. Remember the day you were in the delivery room watching your first child being born, and your phone rang and you didn’t answer it? You just let it vibrate away. Well, in that moment, your phone, stunned and rejected, vowed that this would never happen again. It began a campaign to ring just as the story gets exciting, or as the board game climaxes, or in the middle of a crucial convo with your teen.
We need to show it who is in charge! Besides, 99 out of 100 messages can wait an hour or two, or maybe even a day, before we get back to them.
7. Replenish yourself so you bring more to the moment.
We are to give of ourselves to our children, but we must look after ourselves so that we can keep on giving.
Said another way, if our outflow exceeds our inflow that shortfall will be our downfall.
Here’s some ideas for replenishing ourselves so we have more to offer our kids…
Find less time-consuming ways to replenish yourself. I personally believe that it would be better to slightly reduce time we have with our kids if it means we can use that time to give more of ourselves to them when we are with them. The real power of quality time is that it affords the possibility of emotional connection, and emotional connection is hard to do when our emotional tanks are are very low.
Parent, what can you do, once or a few times a week that doesn’t take too much time, that will mean that there’s so much more of you when you are present to your kids?
Don’t sprint your entire workday. I am certainly an advocate for working hard, and putting in the hours our employers pay us for. But I find that if I overdo it all day long at work, I tend to have nothing left for my kids when I get home. I now see a workday as consisting of a short-sprint here and there, but generally marathon-mode is what is needed. This way I keep some fuel in my tank for my kids when I get home.
Prioritize your marriage. The number one pitfall of parenting, I think, is putting our kids before our marriage. If we’re married, our parenting is only as strong as our relationship with our spouse.
I chatted to this guy the other day who, when he comes home from work, kisses his wife first. Then he sits down on a couch with his wife and they do a 5-10 minute catch up on the day. These two practices, he says, have not only benefitted his marriage, but have made his kids feel so secure.
Get away. Julie and try get away from our kids twice a year for a night (or sometimes two). We come back with so much more to give to our kids.
Don’t go to bed late. Next to protecting one’s marriage, the second secret to good parenting, especially when our kids are young is getting enough sleep. I know how sweet those hours are after kids bedtime – but use them well, and don’t prolong them with Netflix every night. Our gift to our children is to bring them the freshest version of ourselves, and that means getting enough sleep.
Now, having said all this, I don’t want to create an unrealistic expectation for parents, especially parents of little kids. My experience over the last few years is that my emotional bucket seldom rises over 50% full. My job is to try fill that bucket as much as I realistically can, but then accept that this is a crazy season of life in which I might have to do much or most of my parenting on half-empty. This is just the way it is.
So, there you have it.
- Stay motivated by reminding yourself why.
- Ruthlessly prioritize.
- Grab daily gaps with your kids.
- Don’t miss the special events in your kid’s life.
- Develop your parenting muscle.
- Switch off your phone when you get home.
- Replenish yourself so you bring more to the moment.
But these are only half of my best ideas.
There’s another 7 in the next blog, and they’re as helpful as these.
(So be sure to like my Facebook page so you get that post in your feed.)
Also published on Medium.