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January 18, 2021

Quantity And Quality Time—Your Child Needs Both From You

The old debate about which is best for your children, "quantity time" or "quality time," shouldn’t be a debate at all. It’s not the quantity of time that you spend with your children, it's the quality that counts. Or is it?

That is a widely-quoted proverb which serves to reduce guilt in parents who are rarely at home. While the statement is true (a small amount of meaningful time with children is better than a longer period of less constructive interaction), who says that a working mother's evening time with her children is necessarily of greater quality than it would have been if she remained at home all day? Her fatigue would make the opposite more likely.

The real question is, why do we have to choose between the virtues of quantity versus quality? We won't accept that forced choice in any other area of our lives.

Suppose you've looked forward all day to eating at one of the finest restaurants in town. The waiter brings you a menu, and you order the most expensive steak in the house. But when the meal arrives, you see a tiny piece of meat about one-inch square in the center of the plate. When you complain about the size of the steak, the waiter says, "Sir, I recognize that the portion is small, but that's the finest corn-fed beef money can buy. You'll never find a better bite of meat than we've served you tonight. As to the portion, I hope you understand that it's not the quantity that matters, it's the quality that counts." 
You would object, and for good reason. Why? Because both quality and quantity are important in many areas of our lives, including how we relate to children. They need our time and the best we have to give them. Quality moments don't occur in the absence of time. Unfortunately, time is in short supply in most of today's homes.
Some of us deceive ourselves. We think we're giving our children the undivided attention they need. But you’re missing the target if you have a football game on television while you play Monopoly with the kids, or read the paper while "helping" them with homework, or drive them to the office to color while you work, or take them to one movie at the multiplex while you watch another. Sure, your kids may enjoy some of these activities, but they also know the difference between an involved parent and one who’s merely pretending.
My concern is that the 'quantity-versus-quality' argument might be a poorly disguised rationalization for giving our children—neither.


From Dr. Dobson's book Handbook of Family Advice.

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