[I]t appears the sheer amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out, and a minimal effect on adolescents, according to the first large-scale longitudinal study of parent time to be published in April in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The finding includes children’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being…
the study found one key instance when parent time can be particularly harmful to children. That’s when parents, mothers in particular, are stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty and anxious.
“Mothers’ stress, especially when mothers are stressed because of the juggling with work and trying to find time with kids, that may actually be affecting their kids poorly…”
Now if I understand this study correctly (big news in The Washington Post today), it means that there is never any point to questioning the choice you make as a parent, or judging the choice of another parent. Whatever you or another parent does, it’s all in how it’s done.
“Stress, sleep-deprived, guilty or anxious.”
That kind of stress can come to a mother whether she’s working outside the home or in it.
So be good to yourselves. And as your kids get older, just as they may become a bit surlier with puberty, have dinner with them and talk with them. Together with a partner, if you’ve got one:
…[W]here the quantity of time parents spend does indeed matter is during adolescence: The more time a teen spends engaged with their mother, the fewer instances of delinquent behavior. And the more time teens spend with both their parents together in family time, such as during meals, the less likely they are to abuse drugs and alcohol and engage in other risky or illegal behavior. They also achieve higher math scores. The study found positive associations for teens who spent an average of six hours a week engaged in family time with the parents.
The study reminds me to focus on myself. Focus on my marriage. Model the resulting health and contentment for my kids.