Love, as you know, is the most important thing you can give your children. Although you may not have any doubts about your love for your children, they often do. If you want to understand their doubt, think of your own doubts about your parents’ love for you.
Now, when I am a parent myself, I have no doubts about my parents love for me, but when I was a child, I had many doubts. It took me a long time to learn that what they called “love” was not my definition of love and I translated their behavior into “They don’t love me”.
In my parenting workshops and coaching sessions, many parents share the same feelings with me. There are things you discover about your parents’ love for you only when you have your own kids and when you get the opportunity to learn about “love languages”.
The great book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman describes 5 different ways to express and receive love:
- Words of affirmation
- Physical touch
- Acts of service
- Quality time
This post and the next one are about Quality Time.
Quality time is a very tricky concept for parents. In this day and age, the pressure on parents’ time is so high that they feel their time with their children and family is shrinking, along with their quality time. I can say that I have less and less time with my children and I feel that traveling with them around the world is much more attractive to me than pushing for a weekend together.
For children whose preferred love language is quality time, being born into this world can be tough. When parents must work long hours just to fulfill the basic needs of their family and feel exhausted at the end of the day, time is very precious.
In my kids’ coaching assessments, I find that many of the kids are short on quality time with one or two of their parents, which draws lots of energy from them. Sometimes, more quality time is the only prescription required to solve the child’s difficulty.
Children who feel loved because their parents show them love in the way they need it are happier.
Quality time is meaningful for everyone
Quality time between children and parents is an expression of love and closeness. It is important to note that not every minutes spent together is quality time. For it to be considered “quality”, it must be meaningful for both sides.
It is important to understand what quality time is not. If the time together is meaningful for one side and painful for the other, it is not quality. I think many parents confuse between doing things together and enjoying each other’s company. If the activity is focused only on the child and the parent suffers every second of it, it is not quality. If the time spent together is focused only on the parent and the child suffers every second of it, it is not quality time either.
Many parents think their children are ungrateful when they are not delighted that their parents spend time with them and are blind to the fact the children hate that time together. Teaching children when they hate it is not quality time.
How to find ideas for quality time with your kids
As you might expect, this involves making a list and … checking it twice:
It is important to make sure both sides enjoy the time together. If one of you dislikes an activity, drop it and move on.
Attention is important
Children will test your love by how much you are attuned to their needs and their life experiences. Unfortunately, we cannot expect the kids to be equal in this area, because the adult needs to set the tone and be the role model for how to pay attention. Over time, the kids will learn the skills of paying attention and will show you love that way too. However, quality-time kids are naturally more attentive than kids who “speak” a different love language.
If you come to your kids’ special events, remember they have an exam or spend time with them when they need to practice a new dance, they will be very appreciative and feel loved. Do not have an attention competition and do not expect them to come to all your events or remember everything in your life. You are the adult!
Caring about your child and being a good listener is very important for a quality-time child. Again, spending time together with real curiosity can make children feel important and respected. It is important to remember that listening focuses on the child and sets an example, while talking mostly uses your time with your children to fulfill your own needs. You are not showing love, you are demanding love. This is a way to pollute your time together, so do not be surprised if your quality-time child avoids spending time with you.
Quality time cannot be cheated
If you are spending time with your kids and all you want is to be somewhere else, that is not quality time and your child can tell that you are not present with them. Quality time means they have your undivided attention and if they do not have it, they cannot settle for “half a daddy” or “half a mommy”. It is better to spend time together, but when you are there, be there!
Time together must be enjoyable
I know many parents think that teaching their children is quality time, because they are giving their kids something of value. Most children, on the other hand, hate every second of it.
When you spend time with your kids doing something they hate doing, it may make it easier for them to do it, but it is not necessarily quality time. If they spend the whole time complaining, it is obviously not quality for them.
Use fun and enjoyment as an indication of the quality of the activity. It does not have to be 100% fun, but it needs to be more fun than not. If they need to clean their room and you offer to help, it is only quality time if your presence stops them from complaining and creates a happy atmosphere.
Join me next week for tips and ideas to enhance the quality time with your kids during bath time, bedtime and even while doing the cleaning.
This post is part of the series Love Languages:
- Quality Time: The Gift of Your Presence
- Quality Time: How to Have Fun with Your Kids