Quality Time With Children vs Making Connections

playing with dadVirtually all parents consider a trip to the playground or a museum to be quality time with their children. An afternoon spent together at a park is quality time; however children need more than just quality time with their parents; they need connection time.

We are well aware as to when our children feel connected to us and when they feel disconnected, even if this specific terminology may be new to us.

When our children are feeling disconnected from us, they answer in monosyllables, avoid physical touch, and hesitate to make eye contact. On the other hand, when kids do feel connected to their caregivers, they are talkative, physically affectionate, and spontaneously happy.

As adults, we are capable of letting go of our connection to close friends for many months – even years, and then picking up right where we left off. Children, whose prefrontal cortex is still in development, do not possess this ability.

If my son has not seen his grandmother in a year, he will not be able to pick up the relationship where it left off last winter, no matter how much he knows intellectually that Grandma loves him.

Kids require ongoing nourishment to maintain their relationships, as their minds and relationship skills are growing and developing along with their bodies.

Our children, for the most part, are unaware of the myriad of things that we do FOR them. However, they are fully aware of the things which we do WITH them.

Bringing children to a park, a movie, or museum can be a great activity, yet the value of the quality time for children is in the level of connection that exists within those excursions.

When parents sit on the bench and view their children’s gravity-defying antics on the monkey-bars, that is one level of quality time with children.

However, a game of tag with children chasing their parents is light-years ahead of just watching children play in terms of the connection that is created by engaging in an activity simultaneously.

It has been said that each child requires a minimum of fifteen minutes of connection time with his caregiver in order to develop optimally. Some days, our connection time may be limited to less minutes due to circumstances beyond our control. Even two minutes of connecting, time spent with loving eye contact, physical affection, building, cooking, or playing together will fill up our children’s emotional bank accounts.

Let us commit to spending a minimum of ten minutes of quality time with our children truly connecting with their hearts and minds.  Are you ready for this commitment?

More Resources:

Connection Parenting by Pam Leo is a gem of a book, and one of our newest favorites.  It is an easy read with clear and compelling instructions, research, and advice.  You’ll save a bundle on future therapy costs by purchasing this treasure now.

Comments

  1. Marilyn says:

    My son often avoids eye contact and shrugs off hugs, and this article made me realize that he feels disconnected from me. What an eye opener! I will make the effort to have Connection Time with him every single day, thank you.

    • I totally love this article and will be working on this skill with my three children BUT I think it is important to point out that avoiding eye contact and shrugging off hugs is ALSO a way of saying “I can’t take your sensory stimulation right now” or “I’m overwhelmed.”

      One of my children has Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD and if avoided eye contact and shrugged off hugs and I used that as a cue to connect with him, he would probably punch me! Seriously… those cues mean back off for him.

      So I mention this just as an educational bit for parents who may have undiagnosed children or parents who see someone like me treating my child differently than they would treat theirs.

      • Thanks for pointing this out, Monika. Yes, there can be a variety of reasons for avoiding physical contact, and we can learn to understand our individual children and their tendencies and cues!

      • My almost-5 year old son has Sensory Processing Disorder, as well, and you are so right, Monika! It is important for us as parents to connect enough with our children to be able to tell when they need more and when they need less.

        However, this is still a great article that I think many will learn from!

  2. Marilyn, I agree, this is an eye-opening concept. My daughters get fussy and whiny when they feel disconnected, and I see that even though I spend enormous amounts of time doing things FOR them, I really must focus on doing more stuff WITH them.

    Emma, mom of Kayla and Sarah

  3. This is exactly what I was thinking when I read your email! It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, it’s HOW you do it! Great post! 🙂

  4. Glenda Rodrigues says:

    Yes, that is definitely an eye opener. I thought just being around them and taking them to the parks while they played and i just sat back and relaxed was enough. I can see how much of the real connection time in participating is needed

    • Thanks, Glenda, this has been an eye-opener for me as well. Just using the verbiage “connecting” or “disconnecting” as I think about my interactions with my kids has had a profound effect!

  5. I have seen this disconnect with my 4 yo since our older kids all returned home for school after a brief foray into the public system. He misses his momma time. I have begun to focus a little on him each day and I see it taking hold. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our kids could just know instinctively how much we love them. They’d never disconnect.

    • That would be amazing, Tracey! But this is how they are wired- they are insecure as they grow and develop relationships with themselves and others. Kids’ attachment to one or more adults is their primary need, just as important as food.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I like to think of kids with an emotional bank account like your savings account. Time equals money in this scenario. The more time you give to a child fills up their emotional bank account.

    • I agree with your analogy of the emotional bank account.

      However, I also want to point out the level of CONNECTION that occurs during our time together.

      I can take my son to the grocery because I need to buy food and have nobody to watch him. We will spend an hour together and have no meaningful connection. On the other hand, I can focus on making a segment of that time CONNECTION TIME by tuning into my son’s moods and interests. Since my kids have strong opinions about food, we can discuss which foods we will buy, how many items, why they like those particular foods, etc. At the end of this shopping trip, my son and I have grown emotionally closer.

  7. I totally agree with the above ‘article’! I will be getting the book shortly! I have 5 children and am going to beauty school 40 hours a week right now (so that I can have an at-home business when I graduate). How on earth do I get all the housework done AND pay attention to my kids without losing my mind?! It seems they are always saying “Mom, Mom, Mom” and I get so overwhelmed with all of their needs, that I just shut them out after awhile. Of course, it tends to be more around that wonderful week of the month, too. I know they need my attention individually, but between my husband and 5 kids, it seems that I’m so worn thin constantly. Any suggestions?

    • I can totally relate to your situation, Rebecca! And do contact me when you start your home business; that’s what I do here.

      My first piece of advice would be to schedule 10 minutes of personal time for yourself when you transition from school to home. During the commute, or make a stop on the way home. Stop at a bookstore, coffee shop, meet a friend, get a quick manicure, do something you really LIKE and enjoy. That will fill your emotional bank account so that you have from where to withdraw the love and patience your family needs, and so that you aren’t running on empty.

      And buy the book, Connection Parenting- it’s much cheaper than therapy;)

      Was this helpful?

      • Yes! It technically gave me permission to actually take time for myself! I will try it out this week, after making sure it’s ok with my husband. I haven’t had time to remember to order the book, but I’ll do it shortly, I promise!

  8. Connection time can be real simple, too. I know that work demands and takes a lot out of parents, but our children are our future. Connection can be as simple as doing homework side by side or reading. Brushing or braiding hair for older girls is also a way to connect. On weekends, games are great. Games like hockey or football where you can include all members on the family just with some slight rule changes for the younger children so that they feel like they are being valued too. Card games and board games are great. A strong family unit is the best gift and blessing that you can give to your children.

  9. wow!! just what i needed…my 12 yr old is showing all the signs and this article has just made me realise that i need to connect with her despite by hectic schedule..thanks ellen u always save the day…

  10. Great article! It reminded me of a comment I made to my husband about how I was appalled one morning on my way to work as I witnessed a woman waiting with her 5 year old daughter on the bus stop. Instead of talking or playing with her daughter, she was talking on her cell phone as her daughter just stood there waiting for the bus. What a waste of valuable connection time! I see this happen way too often and shame on those who choose to disconnect with those around them, especially their children, as they yak on their cell phones.

  11. Great article and a good reminder for everyone! my 10 year old twins are very opinionated and I think they get plenty of attention because of that, but my 12 year old (going on to 13!!) shows signs of “leave me alone” and “what do you want from my life”.
    I will definitely try to really connect more!
    Thanks

  12. This question is for Rebecca.Why in the world would you have to ask permission from your husband to buy this great book?! Are you still living in the dark ages where men think they are the dominant creature??? If you want this book to give you peace of mind and help you in your quest for a calmer and happier relationship with your child,then for heaven’s sake,get it! Please don’t be another mousy woman who has to ask “PERMISSION” from her husband every time she turns around. I had a wonderful sweet neighbor who had a domineering husband. GOD!, how I hated that jerk! My husband and I always bought stuff we felt would be helpful in our daily lives. We never had to ask each other for”permission” Please DO NOT let him use the Perverbial “ball and chain” on you.

    • Wow, Jackie. It’s OK. Rebecca is planning to discuss with her husband the idea of taking some time for herself before she transitions to home. I think that’s the kind of thing wives and husbands would want to talk about together.

  13. Trish Arny says:

    Gosh, a whole 10 minutes of “quality connecting time”? Wow, a teacher giving 10 minutes “quality connecting time” with my child – what about the rest of the day? Or a lawyer giving you 10 minutes of “quality connecting time”. Would you really believe in that attorney enough to agree to pay his full amount if he said that his 10 minutes were worth an hour of another equally qualified lawyer’s time? Quality time means nothing to children. Why do you have kids if you truly believe that is sufficient? Children need quantity, too. I had foster kids way too long to believe that the child would rather have 10 minutes “quality time” with me than to spend all day with their parents, no matter how lousy they were. Parents these days do their kids a disservice when they think that 10 minutes “quality connecting time” is good enough. I haven’t read Pam’s book, and maybe I should before I comment, but the sentence “some days our quality time maybe less than 10 minutes due to circumstances beyond our control” is pathetic, short of death or dying.

    • Hello Trish,

      I see where you are coming from in this post, however both quality and quantity are integral to children’s development. The point of this article is to demonstrate that quality time is not just time spent together- it is time spent together where we feel tuned-into each other’s feelings, in which case we want to meet the other person’s needs and desires, which proactively eliminates so many “acting out” behaviors!

  14. What advice do you have for parents whose child/ren are now adults with a long history of disconnect?

    • Hi Breda,

      The answer to your question must depend on the circumstances surrounding your story. Are you on speaking terms? Do you see each other regularly? Are there ongoing arguments, or just a cold distance between you?

      I’d start with total transparency by saying, “Look, I know things have been rocky, and I want to apologize for the way I’ve acted in the past, and I’d like to make some positive changes. How about if we start by going somewhere you like/ treating you to something special so that we can spend some time together in a neutral environment like a museum, park, sporting event?” Depending on the circumstances, you may want to write a letter and then follow up with a phone call.

      • Thanks for taking the time to answer Ellen!

        He avoids us and resists most attempts to communicate. Now, I am recognising how I (we) have unknowlingly communicated an altogether too critical approach to him while not taking enough care to take his own needs sufficiently into account (a quiet, good child is all too easy to overlook!).

        What you say is useful and confirms the approach I am inclined to take.

        Crucially, I am beginning to see the good and to trust. That makes me feel better and will probably free him up too.
        Thanks.

  15. I want to stress the importance of making that 10-15 minutes of connection time individual for each of your children. How special is that to get one on one time?! Try to be consistent (same time every day), and give it a name (mine is Daddy Julian time). Your kids will crave this and so will you.

    The best part is being able to tell yourself, “I get to free my mind and time for the next 15 minutes with nothing to do but be a kid again!” And really make an active effort to rid your mind of bothers and things on your to do list. Your kids will truly love seeing the parent side of you take a break to be their friend. One last suggestion: Let your child choose the activity for your time and keep a list of activities in case they draw a blank. I would also suggest not playing video games or watching tv together!

    • Kit Singleton says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more! Everyone, especially kids need “special time” with friends and family. It helps to boost self-esteem, strengthen relationships, provide a time when parents and kids can talk, and so much more.

      Thanks for the super tips! I think we may need to write more on this topic. What do you think?