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The Key to Effective Quality Time with Your Kids

The Key to Effective Quality Time with Your Kids with metal key on blue-green background

(Last Updated on March 22, 2021)

It’s tempting to think that homeschooling, by default, ensures you’re spending enough time with your kids. However, as you’ve probably heard, quantity doesn’t make up for a lack of quality.

And here’s the kicker…

Even a large quantity of quality time may still feel inadequate to your child if the time isn’t “quality” from THEIR perspective. 

When my nine year old son approached me with tears in his eyes and said he hardly gets to spend any time with me, my first reaction was, unfortunately, complete denial. After all, we had just spent ALL DAY together – meals, school, house cleanup, and dinner prep. This was one of our “at-home days” so our only time apart was for an hour of quiet time after lunch! There was almost literally no more time I could offer him!

As he explained further, I realized part of the issue was that recently he hadn’t gotten to spend enough time with “plain-old-mom.” 

He had a lot of time with “teacher-mom” and more than enough time (in his opinion) with “housekeeper-mom” when we did chores. He also got a good dose of “caretaker-mom” and a fair bit of “chaperone-facilitator-chauffeur-mom.” But regardless of all this quantity of time, there was still something missing. 

At first I thought what was lacking was quality time. We obviously had plenty of quantity but maybe not enough quality. I figured that must be it. 

But as I thought about the previous weeks, I found I was able to name a lot of “quality” moments peppered throughout our days together. 

During the school days we laughed and reminisced and shared ideas. While brushing teeth we had a staring contest or wrote “I LUV U” with the toddler’s bathtub foam letters. Driving to a doctor’s appointment we enjoyed an audiobook together and had a great discussion about what might happen next. These things were all important, priceless, “quality” moments. 

So, we had quantity and we had quality. Yet clearly my son was upset. I felt like I was still missing something. 

Then, while reading Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Mother & Son: The Respect Effect, I found the key to our situation. Eggerichs states “quality time is what a boy feels is quality time.” (2016, pg. 49, original emphasis, and this would apply to girls, too). 

While my son enjoys and needs the quality time moments I described above (he even suggested some of them), he can walk away from a day filled with them still feeling like something is lacking IF mom and dad didn’t spend any time with him doing what’s most important to HIM. 

That hit the nail on the head.

So, since then, I’ve resolved that if that means sitting and listening intently as he explains the intricacies of using redstone and sticky pistons to set traps in Minecraft, or being the pet store owner in his made-up game called “Pet”, or watching him perform the same magic tricks for the 954th time, then so be it. 

THOSE things are quality time to him right now. 

This reminds me of the advice I got as a new mom of my first toddler. It helps to front-load your toddler’s day by spending time with them first (rather than having them tugging on you all day, begging for the attention they crave).

In the same way, if we fill up our school-aged kids’ “love tanks” by doing their favorite things alongside them from time to time (or even just watching them without distraction!), our kids will feel loved and respected which will carry them through their “less-favorite” parts of the days and weeks.

If you’re not sure what qualifies as “quality time” in your kid’s eyes, just ask them!

Often you’ll find the answer isn’t as complicated or expensive as you’d think. When they realize you’re genuinely asking and you really intend to hang out with them doing the activity of their choice, you’re more likely to get “watch me build this cool tower” than “I want to go to Disneyland!”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go observe the construction of a secret base in Minecraft.

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