What is “quality time” and why has it reached paramount importance in parenting magazines?
Quality time is when you spend time focused on your child. It is not the time that you pay the bills, clean the house, or run errands. It is not the time that the ringing of the phone constantly disrupts your conversation with your son.
Quality time is any pleasurable activity that a parent and child are engaged in together. It can be shopping, baking cookies, simply talking, playing a game, or even going through homework- anything that the child enjoys doing together with you.
Your son knows how important incoming phone calls are to you. When you let the voice mail answer the phone, you are conveying a nonverbal message that your child is important and valued.
When you allow your daughter to choose the place and activity of your quality time, you are sending a message of respect. You are letting her know that her desires are important to you.
It is important to demonstrate interest in your child’s interests. Imagine that someone made derogatory remarks about your political, religious, or social views. As adults, we would generally react by feeling hurt and belittled.
Children, too, need to align themselves with people who share their views and interests. This does not mean that you need to develop a fascination with dolls in order to spend quality time with your daughter that is presently obsessed with her doll collection. However, when you listen to her description of the various details of the dolls in an attentive manner, you are subtly hinting to her, “I love you so much that whatever is important to you is of interest to me”. This will raise her self-esteem.
Conversely, a child who regularly hears from their parent the verbal or silent message that, “Your toys and friends are of no interest to me because I am busy with more important things” will suffer a tremendous blow to his self-esteem.
Most children will gladly talk about their interests and experiences to any adult that will listen to them. If your child is hesitant to share details of his life with you, it is often a sign that he has been rebuffed by a ‘too busy’ adult during the times that he was open to sharing thoughts about his class and hobbies.
Some parents wonder if they are being dishonest by feigning an interest in moths while viewing their son’s insect collection. You need not pretend to want to start your own personal bug collection, yet you should feel an interest in the matter simply because it is something that is important to your son.
I once heard it said that when a child’s toy boat gets a hole and sinks to the bottom of the bathtub, it is an equally great tragedy as the merchant whose fleet of ships loaded with merchandise sink in the sea. A child’s world has the same importance to him, as our world as adults has to us.