Parenting Time: Is Quality More Important Than Quantity?

Does the amount of time moms spend with their kids matter?


There is a widespread cultural belief in America that mothers know best. Society believes that optimal child development comes from intensive time spend with mom. However, for many working moms time spend with children is limited, leaving them feeling guilty and anxious about the lack of time they spend with their children and the impact it has on their child's development and well-being.

Working moms, relief is on the way!

A new study published by the Journal of Marriage and Family found that quality of time spent with children is more important than quantity of time spent. Researchers analyzed the time diaries of a nationally representative longitudinal survey of families. The researchers looked at parent time and outcomes when the children were between the ages of 3 and 11 and again when the children were between the ages of 12 and 17. Researchers studied when parents were interacting with their children (engaged time), and when parents were present, but not actively involved with children (accessible time). 

The study debunked the common belief that intensive time spent with mom is necessary for optimal child development. The study found that overall the sheer amount of maternal time spent with children ages 3 to 11 did not influence the child's well-being. Another common concept debunked by the study is that time spent  with mom is better than time spent with anyone else.

The study found that the more time adolescents spend with both parents, the more likely they will stay out of trouble and remain focused. Time spent with parents is more important during adolescents than younger years, but parents need to begin to connect with their children when the children are young.

Adolescents who feel they can trust and rely on their parents will go talk to them and this is important during teen years of confusion, peer pressure and puberty. Family time, such as family dinners and other group activities, are believed to increase adolescent well-being. 

The study noted that spending time with a mother who is stressed, sleep-deprived and anxious may have harmful affects on a child. It is important for parents to find reliable child care if they are feeling overly stressed managing work, family and other life responsibilities.  

So what is quality time?

Quality time is spent connecting with your child and building relationships. This study shows that parents do not need to worry about spending so much time with their children and beating themselves up when they cannot fit in the time. The takeaway is to make your time with your children count. Sharing meals, reading to your children and spending time talking to them is what is best for their well-being. 

Try this!

Every evening spend 15 minutes of quality time with your children, individually. Turn off the television, make sure homework is finished, put away your cell phone and spend 15 minutes engaged with your child - doing whatever it is he or she wants to do or talking about whatever is on your child's mind.

You will go to bed feeling like super mom or dad.

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