I have bad news. In an age of instant everything – instant messaging, microwave dinners, drive-through coffee shops, and on-demand TV – parenting takes time. Due to time constraints, parents sometimes look for the short cuts:
- When children are upset, it is quicker to tell them what to do than to hear their pain and frustration. It takes time to listen to them, to help them think through their options, to let them decide on their best course of action.
- When children don’t follow through on a task, it is faster to overlook it and do the job yourself. It takes time to monitor whether they have followed through and completed the work appropriately.
- When children are struggling with a school assignment, it is simpler to give them the answers. It takes time to let them work on their own, to keep them motivated, to determine which concepts they have missed, and to teach them the necessary material so they can finish the work on their own.
- When children break a rule, it is easier to look the other way than to hold them accountable by setting a consequence. It takes time to understand what caused the behavior, to decipher what assistance they need, to determine what actions you need to take to teach your children how to make better choices in the future, and to make sure the consequence is being adhered to.
- Parenting is not efficient. It takes time and a lot of patience. And that is the problem. Parents often do not have the time. The same items that are meant to be conveniences also make your life busier than ever. For example, it used to be that upon returning home after a long day, you would look to see if any mail had been delivered. Now, upon returning home, there are not only mailboxes to check, but also answering machines, one, two, or three email accounts, your Facebook …
One might think that as you become busier, you could turn to your children for help and delegate more responsibilities to them. However, the opposite is often true. The busier you are, the more focused you can become on checking off things from your “to-do” list. Time becomes a premium. You look for the quick solution. Delegating tasks to children is usually not the quickest, most efficient way to get things done the way you want them done.
Furthermore, your children are often quite busy themselves. School, activities, and sports can leave your children with little free time. According to a KidsPoll survey of students aged nine to thirteen, 41% say that they feel stressed “most of the time” or “always” because they have too much to do. In response, many parents hesitate to fill their children’s precious down-time with homework, chores, and consequences.
But what are you teaching your children?
If you want to raise children who are responsible, capable adults, you need to put in the time. Sure, some kids will turn out fine with a minimum of effort, but most need your attention, your time and your guidance to become the most they can be.
So Where Do Parents Find the Time?
In today’s fast-paced world, it can be hard to imagine how you can devote MORE minutes in your day to your job as a parent. Aren’t you doing enough already? Here are some ideas to carve out a little more time for your family and yourself. You can:
- Be aware of your own behaviors. Are you so focused on completing a task that quality suffers? Are you teaching your children that taking short cuts is okay? Are you taking over and giving the message that they are not capable of doing the job themselves? Are you always hurrying them so that they get the message that what they do is more important than who they are? If so, you can slow down, follow through, and be sure that what you do, you do well. That way, you don’t have to go back and re-do things that weren’t completed fully the first time.
- Examine all the “shoulds” on your list. There are probably things you do because you believe you “should,” not because you need to or because you want to. These tend to represent someone else’s values, not your own. It often feels that you are being judged by others (and by yourself) according to how much you accomplish in a day. If you find yourself with too many “shoulds,” you can ask:
- Can I let anything go?
- What is really important to me and my family?
- Can I enlist the help of anyone in the family to meet these goals?
- Can I simplify any aspect of our lives?
- Re-evaluate all of your children’s activities. Are they taking up all of your family’s down-time? Are you running ragged? Do your children have insufficient time to do chores because they are too busy with extra-curricular activities? Are they staying up so late that they are not getting adequate sleep? If so, then you need to cut back and set limits by not putting more into the schedule than there is time to handle. Your children will get to do everything that is truly important to them, even if they have to postpone for the time being doing some of the things they want to do. Learning to make this distinction between wants and needs and understanding the value of prioritizing are important skills for children to learn.
It seems that today there is increasing pressure to “do” more for children – more activities, more sports (traveling greater distances), and more stress to have them lead the pack. You can feel guilty if you are not doing it all. Yet something somewhere has to give, and often it is the fundamentals of parenting that lose out: the listening, the monitoring, the introspection, and the teaching. Rather than trying to do it all, scale back, choose the most important things, and put in the time to make sure you and your children do them with patience and commitment.By Deb Cohen, Certified Parenting Educator
For more information about parenting, check out the following books. Purchasing books from our website through Amazon.com supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.
If you found this article helpful, click here to make a donation to The Center for Parenting Education. Your support will enable us to continue to provide quality information free of charge.