Quality time is something that all children benefit greatly from. It improves the Parent-Child relationship, can improve sibling relationships, and can, overall, decrease negative behaviors from your children while increasing harmony and positive behaviors. But what is quality time?
In today’s blog post, we are going to come up with a common definition for quality time, and go into how you, as a parent, can engage in quality time with your children. We are also going to dive in on how quality time can improve the relationships in your household and help make your family more loving and united.
What is Quality Time?
Quality time is often thought of as time spent with your children, engaging in an activity that is enjoyable for the whole family. This is a fairly good definition, but we should take it a step further.
For the purposes of our article today, Quality Time will be defined as time spent between parent and a child doing something that the child finds enjoyable. This practice is known therapeutically as Attending or as Attending Practices. As such, these terms will be used interchangeably throughout the rest of this post.
Quality time can be provided on a one-on-one basis or as a family unit. As mentioned previously, Attending Practices can assist in promoting positive behaviors while also decreasing negative behaviors from your children. Part of the reason why this happens, is because children thrive off of time spent with their parents.
Kids thirst for time with their parents, and will frequently act out in negative ways when they feel that they are not getting enough time from them. It is important for you to know that this is a subconscious process, meaning that children are not doing this knowingly.
In therapy, I frequently meet families who have children that are acting out at home or at school. Many of these children end up diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, and a smaller set with Conduct Disorder. In my time as a therapist, I frequently found that most of these children had none of these disorders at all.
Many of these children were acting out because they lacked quality time with their parents. It is important to note that this is not because they had “bad” parents or had parents that were neglectful. In many of these situations, the parents were extremely busy working multiple jobs, had several different hardships due to financial problems, or simply were just doing the best they could with what they had available at that time. Some of the parents just didn’t know that they were not spending enough time with their children.
Whatever the case, most of these situations were easily remedied once I started assigning the increase of Attending Practices between the parent and the child as a homework assignment for the family.
The increase in quality time also improves the quality of your Parent-Child Relationship, which is the bond and attachment you have with your child. The Parent-Child Relationship is a fairly complex thing, so I encourage you to check out my article on this topic: The Secret to a Loving Parent-Child Relationship. You’ll also learn more about how quality time improves this relationship, as well as some other tips for strengthening this bond.
How Does Quality Time Improve Behavior?
As parents, without even realizing it, we will teach our children that we will give them more of our attention for misbehaving than for behaving appropriately. I’ll give you an example from my own life as a mom.
When my daughter was about two-years-old, she was playing in the other room with her toys while I was in the kitchen cooking. I was focused on dinner and was not paying any attention to her, other than to make sure that she was safe and doing things appropriately.
She then came into the kitchen wanting my attention, calling my name. I simply let her know that I could not pay attention to her right then because I was in the process of making dinner. I told her that I would give her some attention once I was done cooking.
She was not happy with this response and continued to seek out my attention by pulling on my pant leg, calling my name, and even trying to get between me and the stove. When I continued to put her off, telling her that I would play with her in a little bit, she finally stopped.
Now, in my kitchen, I had a cabinet where we stored all of our glass bakeware. At this point in time, I had not baby-proofed this cabinet. When she left me alone, she didn’t go back to playing. Instead, she walked right over to this cabinet and gently placed her hand on the knob while watching me to see how I would react.
Knowing exactly what she was going to do, I asked her firmly to leave the cabinet alone. When I didn’t move from the stove, however, she opened the door. I issued a warning, letting her know that there would be a consequence if she didn’t close that door. When she saw that I still didn’t move from stove, however, she took the next step of placing one of her little hands on a glass measuring cup. What did I do? I dropped everything I was doing and addressed the situation.
Let me ask you this question: By dropping everything I was doing to address her behavior, what did I just do? What did I just enforce?
Without realizing it and without intending too, I just rewarded her negative behavior. You might be confused as to how I rewarded the behavior if my intention was to administer consequences?
All my daughter wanted was my attention. When I wouldn’t give her my attention when she asked me nicely for it, she took it to the next level. She became increasingly more demanding in asking me for my attention. She started off by calling my name, then pulling my pant leg, then getting between me and the stove. When none of this worked, she pulled out her secret weapon: misbehaving. She walked over to a cabinet she knew was off limits, and then proceeded to mess around with the glass instead.
Children aren’t stupid. They are incredibly intelligent. She knew that if she began messing around with this cabinet, I would most likely give her the attention she was seeking. It doesn’t matter that I was upset with her. All that mattered was that she wanted me to stop cooking and focus on her. And she accomplished exactly that when she began touching the bakeware. I am willing to bet, that if I hadn’t stopped what I was doing and continued cooking instead, she would have continued to become progressively more disruptive in her behavior.
It is important for you to know that my daughter didn’t have a history of behavioral issues, but because she wanted my attention and I wasn’t giving it to her, she was willing to engage in disruptive behavior in order to get what she wanted… my attention. And when I finally gave her my attention, her goal was accomplished, and I (inadvertently) rewarded her misbehavior.
Does this situation sound you familiar to you in anyway? Have you ever had something like this happen in your household? My guess is probably “yes.” Most parents experience it at least a few times while raising their kids. This is because our children are seeking our attention and we, without realizing it, are rewarding the behavior by giving them the attention they seek.
Remember, kids would much rather have negative attention from their parents than no attention at all.
It’s important that we don’t get confused into thinking that if our child is misbehaving, we should simply ignore the behavior. Misbehavior should always produce some sort of intentional action from us. What I am trying to highlight, however, is that children will act out in order to get our attention. So how can we, preventatively, manage our time with our children in order to decrease disruptive, attention-seeking behavior? The answer (you guess it!) is increasing quality time.
Increasing Quality Time
How much time do you spend engaging with your child in something they enjoy doing on a daily basis? If I was to guess, it’s probably just a few minutes every day. For some of us it may not even be daily. Have you ever stopped to really think about it? Many of us think that we are engaging in quality time with our children daily, but the truth is that few of us do this with any regularity.
I encourage you to begin engaging in Attending Practices with your child, and makes these practices a part of your daily routine in your home. It does not have to be for an hour every day (though that is the common recommendation). You can start by adding just 10 minutes of quality time every single day with your child. Try to make it an activity that your child enjoys doing.
Here are some examples:
Play a board game or video game together
Read a book together
Work on a puzzle
Watch an episode of your child’s favorite TV show with him
Go for a walk, hike, bike ride, or swim together
Take a drive together
Visit the park
Go see a movie he wants to see