The Time Paradox in Parenting
Updated: May 31
The average parent spends approximately 2-3 hours of quality time a day with their children. That’s roughly 8-10% of a 24-hour period.
Parents have to invest in nurturing their child’s emotional and mental development, moulding the child's inner sense of morality, and cultivating their social intelligence. Parents are tasked with helping their children develop into high-functioning, contributing citizens of society - with just 2-3 hours a day. That’s a tall order.
The time presently spent with children is a significant improvement from 50 years ago according to an article by The Economist. Apparently the generation prior spent even less time with their children. Which leads us to the following question:
If you had the ability to create your own schedule, to meet your needs and the needs of your family, how much time would you allocate to raising your children?
Taking into account that no two children are the same, their needs and demands are different. Some require more time and attention than others.
The idea that there is a “normal” amount of time that a child should expect of you is a distorted social construct. Stage theorists have capitalized on the idea that children who exist as outliers from the average are abnormal - not the case (more to add in an upcoming blog). Children will demonstrate how much of your time they need and you either adapt and see them flourish, or your child adapts and starts to struggle. Children are not pre-programmed to accommodate the reality of your circumstances. There’s generally a developmental cost when a child’s emotional, social and intellectual needs are not met.
That said, everyone is doing the best they can. Bills need to get paid, we need to put food on the table, not to mention the extra-curricular activities, and of course, socializing.
More than any of those things, a truth we as a society continue to diminish, what children need most is quality time with their parents. Children need you present. Parents are often treated as glorified guardians, people without the wherewithal to properly attend to their children. This could not be further from the truth.
I realized the impact of parent involvement while researching my proof-of-concept. When I started involving the parents, and they started incorporating the activities at home, the behavioural shifts were significant. So even if 2-3 hours isn’t much, that time has more significance to your child’s development when spent with you opposed to a hired professional.
This is why Project Purpose offers parent-child workshops, leveraging parental influence to successfully instil resilience and perseverance within your children. Our role is to simply guide and support parents, not only by providing community, but also with the tools and exercises to help focus on their child's intellectual and character development.
With the self-isolation that comes with COVID-19, there’s much more face time amongst family members. While I’m sure that introduces a layer of chaos, many might recognize shifts in their child’s behaviour because of the increased sense of security. With security, children stand to tap into so much more of their hidden potential.
I do not believe that children are born with a concept of failure. They are intrinsically wired for success. They go from babbling, to crawling, to walking, all the while learning to manipulate and master the environments around them. Failure is never considered. If a small child doesn’t achieve a goal the first time, this “failure” is met with surprise, rage, maybe indignation and then they try and try again. It’s one accomplishment after another. As children get older, there's more to do, time becomes restricted. That, coupled with increased task complexity and not having the appropriate support present, children start to internalize the failure that comes with effort and trying. They interpret this lack of achievement as an innate inability to succeed. They lose sight of the bigger lesson, that failure is an invitation to try again and is a prerequisite to success.
Putting the onus all on the parent’s shoulders in this modern age is unrealistic. We need to create communities that support, protect, and empower our children to keep striving and unearthing their unique potential.
Prior to the era of mass consumption the Western family was self-sufficient. This family grew and produced their own food, cooked and served it; made their own soap and clothing, provided their own transportation, entertainment, healthcare, and old age assistance. COVID-19 might be an opportunity to create a more digitalized version of this reality.
What's the point that I'm trying to make? Children need their families’ and their communities’ time. More time than society as it is today, allows. Time to build thick skin, to become resilient and to cultivate a strong sense of individuality. Children need the leaders, mentors, and adults within their communities to reinforce their sense of ability until they have an internalized model.
As human beings, we need purpose to strive to find meaning in life. The prerequisites to purpose are autonomy, self-efficacy, compassion and self-concept.
Which brings us to the core question, if you are not available to actively parent your children 90% of any given day, then who are the individuals helping you to raise your children?