I try to keep my writing light and interesting, but sometimes I preach. Today is a preaching day because I came across a very alarming study yesterday…
According to this study, many parents spend less than 7 minutes a day in communication with their children. That is shocking, scary, and terribly alarming! 7 MINUTES! I spend more time in the washroom. And if, on average, men tend to communicate LESS than women, then this might be RED ALERT boys! Take us to Def-Con 2!
Now before you get your ginch in a pinch, I know we all lead busy lives. We work, we pay bills, we try to have a life. We rush our over-scheduled children around from one activity to another (oh FYI, ‘busyness’ doesn’t equal good parenting!) Who has time left to talk with their children? But WHAT?!
There are 1440 minutes in a day – even if you take away the minutes spent at school and asleep, there are still a TON of prime minutes lost every day. What is QUALITY time to you? If life is where you put your attention, where is yours?
START in the MORNING! How different would your day be if someone lovingly stroked your head, whispered kind words, and spent 5 minutes gently rousing you from your slumber? All right, stop thinking THAT – ya dog… I’m not trying to be crude or silly. But indulge me for a second, try sitting on the edge of your child’s bed as they sleep in the morning… collect the eyes before you connect… stop yelling, “TIME TO WAKE UP!!!” -- I am not a crazy person, I know mornings are chaotic, but try this for one week and you will be amazed.
ZIP YOUR LIPS! I know I am saying TALK but sometimes we, as parents (and dads), need to just listen. True communication is two people talking and actively listening to each other. As men, this is not always our strongest suit. Try looking at your child (or partner) right in the eyes when they are speaking and really focus on their words and body language. Teach your children how to listen by showing them how you listen to them. As men, we are also programmed to fix problems. We listen (at first), assess, and then wait for our moment to dispense our incredibly brilliant solution. Sometimes we just need to listen and zip it –especially in the teen years. Trust me. Be present and quiet, and they will keep talking and sharing…
SPEAK WITH not AT! I will pose my final point as a series of questions, answer these questions honestly, and the path to the magic kingdom of true connections awaits…
- Do you speak WITH your children or simply AT your children?
- How much is one-way directive, monologue communication? (“Clean your room! Take out the garage! How many times I have told you to…) – YUCK!
- How much communication in your home is in response to conflict? *30%? 50%? 80%? 99%?
- How completely do you listen to your child’s opinions and feelings? How often do you seek out your child’s opinion?
- How much time do you spend in meaningful dialogue with you child / children? 5 minutes? 7? 20? 60?
If you answered honestly (and poorly) above, fear not… here are some simple ideas for you…
- Ask more open-ended questions - Questions that can’t be answered with a yes or a no. “What do you think…” “WHY do you think...” “What would happen if…”
- Stop using the excuse that ‘my kids don’t talk’ – How was your day – FINE – What did you do? NOTHING. Simply ASK BETTER QUESTIONS!! Turn judgments into curiosity!
- Follow your child’s lead and interests: “Tell me more about FACEBOOK…” – What makes the Wii better than an Xbox?
Frankly, I was startled by the 7 minute notion and I want to enlighten (scare) you and force you to think about the day-to-day life within your own family.
We can ALL spend more time talking with our children. We can always up the quality minutes – what is the minimum we should shoot for? 20 minutes? 30? 80? Whatever your number is now, increase it – double it! ‘Talk’ about a WIN-WIN-WIN situation for you, your child, and your family life. For every minute spent in meaningful dialogue with your child, their attachment to you grows exponentially.
PICK YOUR TIMES -- Set aside time just to listen and get to know your child. While driving to and from activities maybe a hidden gem for quality time, family meal times and bedtime remain the best times for connecting. INSIST on Family Meal Times – buck the drive-thru trend! And then read, snuggle, and connect with your children before they close their eyes…
Too often, we choose to make other activities in our lives a higher priority, leaving parenting to the daycare centers, schools and activity leaders. Parenting is a privilege. Make it your first priority. Turn off your computer, put your Smartphone down, and go engage your kids in something fun!
Remember, kids spell LOVE = T-I-M-E!
How many minutes do you spend communicating with your children? Please brag or confess… how would your kids rank you? I will jump off my soapbox now, but I hope this starts the dialogue…
Until next time…
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