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Warning: Your Family Time May Be Less Effective Than You Think

When it comes to family time, quality is more important than quantity, right? Or is it the other way around? Parents get plenty of conflicting information about how much time they should spend with their kids, and how they should spend that time, and what it generally boils down to is guilt. No matter what you’re doing with your family, it seems like it’s never enough. If you’ve used the Tiny Habits Method before, you know how impactful a few Tiny Habit recipes can be. (If you haven’t, click here to learn more!) But can Tiny Habits build relationships as well? Read on to find out.

Modern Parenting By the Numbers

The Pew Research Center reports that parenting trends have changed drastically in the past 50 years. Among their findings:

  • Over 50% of mothers and fathers say juggling work and family is a challenge for them.
  • 40% of working mothers report that they always feel rushed.
  • 23% of mothers feel they don’t spend enough time with their children.

However, the study also found that both mothers and fathers spend significantly more time with their children than the parents of the 60s did. Mothers’ time has gone up from 10 hours a week to 14, and today’s fathers spend about 7 hours a week with their kids, compared to the 2.5 hours their own fathers put in.

Feeling Like It’s Never Enough

So why is it that we feel it’s not enough? Societal pressures may be partly to blame. As more women join the workforce, they feel the stress of balancing home and family more. And whether you’re a helicopter parent or not, our culture has begun to equate intensive parenting with a child’s future success, putting pressure on all parents to double down and focus on their kids while also maintaining their careers and households.

Surprisingly, researchers are finding that quantity may not matter as much as we think. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that the sheer amount of time children over three spent with their parents had little bearing on their overall social and academic success. The important factor was engagement. Time spent participating in activities together turns out to be much more impactful than time spent together doing separate activities. (One caveat: Teens whose parents are more available on the periphery exhibit less delinquency whether they actually interact with their parents more or not.)

From Available to Engaged

The good news is you’re probably already spending plenty of time with your kid. The real struggle is feeling like that time is worthwhile. You may spend hours together in the car each week without actually strengthening your bond. So how can you use the time you’re already together to foster a deeper and more meaningful connection? Here’s where Tiny Habits can spark major change.

Turn off the devices. Tiny Habits for Moms Coach Brittany Herlean puts her phone on airplane mode when she picks her kids up from school. It’s a small gesture that allows her to focus completely on them as they reconnect and talk about their day.

Try It Yourself:

  • After I park in front of my child’s school I’ll put my phone on airplane mode.
  • After my family sits down to dinner, we will silence our phones and put them in a basket.
  • After I sit down to help my child with her homework I will silence my phone.

Create mini family traditions. The way you say good-bye in the morning and good-night in the evening, how you spend your Saturday afternoons, and the way you celebrate small wins or make bad days better can all work to establish a strong family identity that binds your family together. Tiny Habits Certified Coach Jennifer Lee, writer and mom of two, always rode the bus growing up, except on days when she had tryouts, a performance or a big test. Then her dad drove her to school, stopping for a “Farmer’s Breakfast” – twinkies and chocolate milk. Not the healthiest tradition, but one that let her know her dad was always cheering her on.

Try It Yourself:

  • After my child informs me of an upcoming event, I’ll open up my calendar and input the information. (It’s a starter step that enables you to make their event part of your day.)
  • After I make my child’s lunch I’ll put in a fun surprise (or a loving note or silly joke).
  • After I tuck my child in at night we will fold our arms to pray.

Use tech to your advantage. Smart phones get a bad rap for reducing parents’ engagement, but they don’t have to. Tiny Habits Academy Director Linda Fogg-Phillips is also an expert on using social media and technology to strengthen your family connections. “We need to be at the crossroads of the lives of our children,” she says, “and oftentimes that’s online.”

Try It Yourself:

  • After I push the button on my coffee maker I’ll text my child a note of appreciation or encouragement.
  • After I check my child’s homework at night I will invite him to play a video game with me.
  • After I open up Instagram I will like one of my child’s posts.

Be sure and celebrate after every Tiny Habit. Get your kids celebrating, too. The positive emotions will reinforce the behavior, and you’ll teach them that making time for each other feels good.

In our latest course, Tiny Habits for Moms, you’ll learn more about how to strengthen your family connections and create balance in your life. Click here to join us for this impactful online workshop. Want to share your own ideas for making time together meaningful? Share your suggestions below or email them to jenniferleelee@gmail.com and we’ll feature our favorites in an upcoming post.

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