Spend More Time With Your Kids

If you’re just now joining us this week, find Part 1 of “Get Off the Crazy Train” here, and Part 2 is here. 

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12. To honor and celebrate you, Mom, this week I’m posting about the tough—but oh, so rewarding— job of motherhood.

I’ll also be giving away five copies of my book, The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers. Just leave me a comment on any of the blog posts this week (May 6-9), and you’ll be entered to win. Share the post via Facebook or Twitter and you can earn two more entries. Just come back to the blog post and leave a comment for each action.

Please note: Comments left on eligible posts by noon central time, May 10, will be entered into the book giveaway. Five winners will be chosen at random Friday afternoon and contacted via email.

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Once we have identified our real motives for our behaviors, then, we are ready to make some serious changes. Fear of having our kids fall behind, of feeling like a failure as a parent, or of not helping our child meet his highest potential drives us to do ridiculous and harmful things to our kids. So we need to change our behaviors and commit to making decisions for our kids from a posture of strength, not fear.

When we consider the development of a child’s identity, we see that spending adequate time with parents is crucial.

Here’s why.

When a child is young, she scours her mother and father’s faces for clues about life and herself. She reads their body language, their mannerisms, their inflections, and she listens to their tone of voice in order to find out some very important things. She needs to know what they believe about her.

Even as young as a year old, your son watches you to see if you are in a good mood or a bad mood. If you are in a good mood, he can go play because life is good. If you are angry or upset, he is rattled and can’t settle easily. As he grows older, he watches you more fervently. He wonders, Do you like being with him? Do you think that he is stupid or smart? Is he good?  Does he matter? Do you like to hug and kiss him?

When he receives answers, then he begins to form a mental image of himself: he is a good, smart boy who is huggable, or he is a nuisance and is never worth being seen because no one pays attention.

Children shape an image of themselves by the messages we send them and then they internalize those messages. They become part of who they are. Over time, if they repeatedly learn that we are happy to see them, they feel higher value. If we ignore them and talk on our phones whenever they are in the room, they wonder whether or not they are worth being with. (As an aside, I once had a five-year-old patient tell me—while his mom was talking on her cell phone in the exam room—that the family calls her phone “the family killer.”)

In addition, children mimic our behaviors to see if they like them. If snarling makes people pay attention, they will try it. If saying “I’m sorry” makes Mom feel better, then the kids, too, will try it.

This process intensifies as the child reaches junior high and high school. They read us. They listen to hear what we say about them. If we hug them, they feel better about who they are. And the best way to boost a daughter’s self esteem? Contrary to what we might believe, it is not in helping her improve her dancing or get better grades.

Hispanic father and daughter

A daughter’s self-esteem rises when she receives physical affection from her father.

This begs the question: If healthy identity formation, self esteem, and happiness are derived from cues kids receive from their parents, why are we spending so little time with them?

Playing sports helps kids enjoy themselves and maybe get into college, but if a young man doesn’t know how his father really feels about him, does it matter? If pushing our kids to study harder and get better grades helps them get smarter and get into a better college, does it matter if she feels that her mother doesn’t really like to be with her?

These are questions that we must help our kids answer before they leave home. Every child needs to know that Mom loves her because she is alive. And every son needs to know that his dad respects and loves him simply because he is his son. We are teaching our kids that their value to us comes from their performance and this is dangerous.

Staying on the crazy train feeds our fanaticism and tells us that we must keep them busy, we must make them better than their peers, and we must help them get ahead. But this does nothing to build their inner selves, their character, or their identity.

My challenge for each of you is to amp up the time you spend with your children. We think that teens need less of us; this isn’t true. Teens need their parents more than grade school children because their needs are complex and broad. Don’t miss this.

You can’t hug if you aren’t with your kids. They can’t see the smile on your face when they walk into the room if you never do. And they can’t know that you enjoy their company if you are never together.

So do your kids a favor. Jump! Get off the train and spend more time with them.

 

  • Barbara

    Meg, so true about spending time with our kids and focusing more on who they are, just because they are alive, and not what they did or didn’t accomplish that day. Also, good reminder about just being with them. In our own busyness, so much on our plates, we forget to relax, smile, and just BE with our kids. Sitting in their rooms and soaking them in. Thanks so much for sharing and guiding and reminding.

  • Andrea Schlidt

    Love your advice for moms – and dads! We need all the help we can get. Thank you.

  • Amanda Owen

    Dr.Meeker, thank you for such great advice. I have seven month old twin girls and my husband and I are trying our best to be intentional about raising these beautiful miracles with the best spiritual, mental, emotional and physical upbringing we can give them. I was not raised in a spiritual home or with any type of father figure so I am blind in where to go or what to do to give my girls the best home life possible. Thank you for shining your light into my world.

  • Adora

    You are a breath of fresh air. Thank you !

  • Jeanne

    Thank you for the reminder that teenagers need hugs, too.

  • Shauna

    thanks for keeping us focused on what really matters!

  • Ashley

    Great message!

  • Murali

    Dr Meeker..Being a doctor myself, I know the importance of spending quality time with children. After spending many years training to be a surgeon, after my marriage ( my wife is Irish) we decided to settle in Ireland as it was family friendly with good old values. As becoming an attending in Ireland was nigh impossible for a foreign doctor like me, I retrained to becoem a Primary care Physician. My wife who was a nurse , stopped working 13 years ago when the first of our 3 daughters was born.
    Money is tight but we get quality family time together. Breakfast and cooked dinners together every day, less tv and more reading together, activities like horse riding, Camougie( hockey like game) swimming, gymnastics etc with either my wife or I supervising, weekly walks around the nearby river and on the bluebell covered mountain side nearby in summer, hill climbing , picnics together and getting together with my wife`s sisters families at least once a week. We live in a lovely countryside and not a concrete jungle. As the saying goes..Somethings are priceless and for everything else there are things like Mastercard .

    Khalil Gibran said…Our children are not our children and are only the songs and daughters of Life`s longing for itself .

    To all parents I will say…SPEND MORE TIME WITH THE CHILDREN for they will grow up and move on in the blink of an eye.

  • http://www.theconfidentmom.com Susan

    Great reminders, time……so important. It is easy to get caught up in the everyday and forget to just be with not only our kids but others that are important in our lives.

  • Lori

    This is a great reminder to not just be around the kids (as a stay-at-home mom), but to be more present with what they are doing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Julie W

    Good reminders. I sometimes get sucked into my oldest daughter’s bad moods and respond to her negatively. Have to remember to lead by example and remain positive.

  • Abra

    I remember looking to my mother’s face for clues. Thank you for the reminder that my child is doing that, too. Your articles provide such timely, helpful advice to me. Thinking of you, also, as you will certainly be missing your own mother this Mother’s Day.

  • Kristine

    I love your blog posts- I often forward to friends/family because they are so full of good wisdom.

  • Sean

    It’s a lot easier to make time for our other tasks (work, chores, etc.) than to put off spending time with our kids. We only have a relatively short window and then they are off and running. Our youngest just turned nine. It moves so fast… don’t blink.

  • Misty

    “…posture of strength…” I love that. “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” That is it! I just jumped off the “crazy train”! These 3 gifts of mine are so much more important than anything and everything on my to-do list, more important than the what-I-have-to-do-to-look-like-I-have-it-all-together list, and/or more important than rescuing my kiddos from those lessons that build character but cause me to think “what are other parents (teachers, family members, friends, etc.) thinking of me?”. What is the legacy I want to leave me kids with? Surely not that the house was so clean, or mom always had to do things perfectly. The legacy I want to leave is the time and love I spent and gave…this is my prayer. Happy Mom’s Day!