Parenting is an everyday race against time to accomplish a thousand tasks, while also carving out that precious quality time our kids so need and deserve. Parenting is a huge job. Not only are we raising humans but we also have to fit in time to just “be” a human ourselves.
While there is much to be said for tending to our own physical and emotional health (being a human), today I’d like to address a new way to think about your parenting (raising a human).
I recently read a great book, Time to Parent in which the author explains that we can organize our job by considering different types of parent time. There are types of parent time to consider and together, they spell the acronym P.A.R.T.
PROVIDE: time you spend providing basic needs for your family such as food, clothing and shelter.
ARRANGE: time you spend planning your family life. It includes schedules, car pools, grocery lists, sports, budgeting
RELATE: time you spend with your kids talking, playing, cuddling, listening, and laughing.
TEACH: time you spend on life lessons, discipline, values, and self-regulation.
We spend almost all of our waking hours providing, arranging, relating, and teaching. We often feel like we are pouring out our lives for our kids yet they see how we spend our time quite differently.
Visible and Invisible
Even though nearly everything we do is for our kids, it’s not all visible to them. For example, going to work every day (providing) is important because it keeps a roof over your family’s head and provides the opportunity to create memories, such as a family vacation. Unfortunately, providing happens in the adult world and is typically invisible to our kids.
The book has a great visual to explain this. Check out the model below to help you better understand the difference between the 4 types of parent time.
Teaching and relating are visible to our kids as they both happen when you and your child are together. The difference? Teaching happens in the adult’s world. It usually involves your agenda (which is not bad!) as you are trying to teach your child something important that will help them navigate life. Relating happens in your child’s world. This is pure relational time free from anything other than just connecting with and delighting in your kids. It involves stepping outside your comfort zone by trying to see the world in their eyes. Relating is the type of parent time I struggle with the most because it involves putting everything else aside and just being present.
The Million Dollar Question
So, if you’re like me, you may be wondering just how much time experts say is needed to relate to your kids. Let’s be honest: we have great intentions but our time is limited. Research has some good news. Our kids do not need hours of undivided attention every day. Rather, many experts suggest that short bursts of attention (10-15 minutes) delivered frequently is what kids need to feel loved and secure. As it says in the book I read, “…interviews with children reveal that they are satisfied in less time than parents realize; they just want to be able to rely on that time, and for Mom and Dad to be truly focused – not multitasking or phoning it in.”
Spend some time this week considering the four types of parent time. Where might you need to improve? For me it involves sitting with my son and building Lego… learning to relate one brick at a time.
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Jerrah-Lee is a middle school teacher with two young kids. She’s been married for nearly 12 years to her husband, Kevin. She loves learning and in recent years has focused her attention on brain science and healthy family relationships. She also enjoys learning about how to organize her family life in a way that is practical and balanced.