By: Vincent Weaver
Last week, we looked at how we, as parents, distribute our time. On average, each set of 2 parents spends about 10 hours each week with their kids out of 148 potentially “available” hours. And yet, we also discussed the fact that parents are the single greatest influence on their kids’ risk-taking behavior. So, is 10 hours enough? Is that enough to make the most of that influence we have?
First, the good news. According to one study, mothers and fathers rate themselves rather highly as parents. They also say they desire to spend even more time with their kids. No real surprises there. However, parents today “actually devote more time to their children than their forebears did half a century ago”. In fact, for intact marriages, fathers now spend triple the time with their kids than their counterparts did in the mid-1960s. Time spent by mothers with their kids has also increased (but by a much more modest amount). So, the 10 hours spent with one’s kids is apparently a significant increase versus several decades ago.
Back to the original question, though – is this enough to make the most of the influence we have? I guess that depends on what your goal is as a parent. Is your goal to keep them alive? Is it to make sure they don’t get into too much trouble? Is your goal to see that they get into a good college and end up with a high-paying career? Or, does your goal for your child transcend all of this? As parents, we are ALL called to the same goal – to raise saints. (No, really.)
So, how do we do that? (Full disclosure – none of my 5 daughters yet have a feast day named for them.) Well, nothing we can do can guarantee that outcome. After all, God gave our kids the same freewill that we received. However, remember that it is a connection (or “relationship”) perceived by the teen with at least one parent that is the most influential factor in their risk-taking behavior. So, spending time building that relationship is huge. (At this point, you may have figured out that something beyond 10 hours/week with your kids might take precedence over other activities we run across for our time distribution. See the story of Martha and Mary for more on this contrast.)
Here are a few basic, time-tested ideas to build that relationship with your child:
Be a parent! Your child needs a parent – not another friend. They need your steady guiding force and wisdom in their lives.
Keep cool! Your teen is experiencing an emotional roller-coaster. When they get in your face, try not to take it personally. Your calm, reasoned reactions will help the relationship to be stable.
Let them be right. As kids become teens, they are searching for their independence and dignity as an individual. Find something right in their thoughts, attitudes, and actions. (My wife likes to say, “Catch them doing something good.”) And when you’re wrong – let them hear that as well as you asking for forgiveness.
Assume the best – admit the worst. First, assume your child is innately good and wants to truly be a virtuous person. But, also admit that becoming a virtuous person is not always easy and fun. It’s often quite difficult and they may even lose friends as a result of doing the right thing.
Take 20! Make it a priority to spend 20 minutes with your son or daughter each week with no agenda. (This would be in-addition to time you’re spending now.) When you focus on your child like this, it tells them, “You’re really important to me.” If you can devote more time than this – even better.
Know when to: explain, nag, and say ‘No’. Your child isn’t a mind reader. They need to understand where you’re coming from. And, don’t be afraid to nag. (God has a long history of nagging the ones He loves.) Finally, our job as parents is to set limits and have the courage to say ‘no’ to our child when we know it is not in their best interest.
One final thought – these are the types of “connections” we help build between parents and their kids in our various Family Honor programs. The ideas above barely scratch the surface, so if you’d like to experience an entire Family Honor program – go to our “Programs” tab and find one near you! If you don’t see one near you, talk to us about how to bring a program to your area!