Spending Time with our young children is Love
Practically all parents consider their children as their most important asset. So we send them for additional lessons in music, art, computer, speech and drama, dance, ballet, tennis, etc. We also buy for them expensive toys, computer games, etc. to keep them occupied. We think that by doing so we are giving them a head start in life. But we seldom stop to ask ourselves whether we have equipped them for a life of self-worth and confidence. Why do I say that?
It has been said that by the time a child is seven years old; his attitude is set for life. And when our young child constantly pelts us with his questions, (and we are hard pressed by our furiously competitive jobs) how do we normally respond? Have we stopped and reflected on our attitude towards his insatiable questioning?
Now consider for a moment, a child coming into a room to ask Dad or Mom questions or to invite Mom or Dad to play with him or to request spending time with Dad or Mom, but the parent frequently says, “I’m too busy now.” What does that signal to the child? To the child the message is perceived as. “To Dad, I’m not as important as the newspaper he is reading or the time he spends doing his work at the computer. To Mom, I’m not worth as much as her soap opera on television.”
We forget that children rarely want to spend much time in conversation with their parents. Yes, they ask lots of questions and when they get the answers, they then move on to the next thing that captures their attention. They may sit close a while, perhaps give or receive a hug, and then they are off.
If you are a parent, I would encourage you to make time for your child when your child needs a moment. Most chores can be postponed for a few seconds or minutes. Most activities can be interrupted without you suffering harm or losing out on important information. If you must delay your response to your child for a minute or two, call your child to your side and put your arm around him so that you convey the message, “I want you close to me. I like being with you. I’m not rejecting you, merely delaying my response to your question for a few moments.”
We don’t think of the harm we are doing to their adult life when we fail to give them the time they need. Imagine what it is like whenever we go and talk to our boss and our boss frequently has no time for us. Our confidence will be shattered and our self-worth will plunge drastically. What about the child when we unthinkingly do the same? Have we spent time reflecting on this? Have I unconsciously sent a message to my child that might be summed up, “What I want to do is vastly more important than whatever pain I cause you.” This message will be internalized by the child as “I am not worth being around” “I am not worthy to be appreciated and noticed” and it will show up later in his life as a lack of self-worth.
Parents, who make time to informally tutor their child and not scold them whenever the child asks question, will give the child a very strong sense of self-identity and self-worth. Parents, who read books to their kids, play ball with them when they want you to, read stories they write, watch games they play, hear every recital in which they perform, will give their kids a strong sense of their worth to their parents. They affirm their child. They give their attention to their child. They acknowledge to the child that he is important and worth listening to. The child will have this intuitive sense that, “I am important to my parents. I am so important that they want the very best for me, including the very best education they believe they can give to me. I am so important that they are willing to spend time and energy with me. My parents believe I have the ability to learn and are willing to teach me, and therefore, I must be able to learn well.” A cycle is created: the child is encouraged, the child feels worthy, and the child makes an even bigger effort in learning as a result of the feelings of self-worth. So the child achieves more and learns more. Through his accomplishments and the resulting praises and cheers from the parents, the child has an enhanced feeling of self-worth and the cycle goes round again.
Unfortunately today, we have a mantrathat many parents repeat by saying, “I spend quality time with my child and I don’t need quantity time with my child.” They delude themselves! A child instinctively spells your love with the four letters word: T-I-M-E. Not just quality time, but hang-out time, downtime, anytime, all the time. A child, who often does not feel he has access to his parents when he needs the access, does not feel he is loved. He will feel ignored, shunned, insecure and of less worth. Such a child will inevitably have problem with his sense of self-worth later on in life.
The essence of our love for our children is not what we provide for them, but how much TIME we give of ourselves to them. Men, in particular, often don’t understand this. Many have said, “I don’t understand my children. I provide them with everything they need. They don’t appreciate my hard work for them. What more do they want?” They want you! Your ears, your attention, your presence— Yes your time. “What that must be a joke. Where do I find the time in my stressful life?” you say.
Your most precious gift is your time. Only when you give up your (leisure, computer, game, social, TV, etc) time, do you truly prove your love for your children. Whenever you give your time, you are making a sacrifice, and sacrifice is the essence of love. Thus, you show your love in action and not in words only.