Many of us well-intended parents find ourselves overwhelmed and full of self-doubt about our roles in our children’s lives. In our rapidly changing world, with so many “choices” to be made by our children, we often feel like we just don’t get the joy, pride, and gratification that we, as the most significant people in the lives of our keiki, want and deserve. It can be so humiliating, frustrating, and disempowering to experience your child behaving or speaking in a way that could so easily lead us to believe that they don’t appreciate or even love us. Ultimately our goal as parents is to help our children achieve their highest potential by, amongst other things, teaching them to be self assured good citizens of the world, to make the right choices, and to behave appropriately.
How do we, then, become settled and confident with our parenting with so many mixed messages that our children and we face on a daily basis? The answer is not as elusive as many would think, yet the answers are unique to each situation. There is no “one size fits all approach.” After practicing in the field for 25 years and having successfully raised two young adult sons together with my husband, I have learned that the keys to successful parenting are much less complicated than so many of us have been led to believe.
In our attempts at successful parenting, many of us have heard of and tried variations of Time-Out, often without success. This article is not about Time-Out. Let’s simplify things by starting with the often forgotten and all-important concept of Time-In, which is about us, the parents, as much as it is about our children.
Not enough can be said about the importance and power of creating and sustaining Time-In in a manner consistent with our values. Rather than spending so much time focused on what we don’t want for our children, our time is best spent focusing on and figuring out what we do want for their lives. This can often be the hard part as there are so many “ways” and conflicting recommendations which alone can be frustrating and exhausting. What is clear is that, according to studies, when children spend time (Time-In) with their parents and feel loved and cared for by family members, they are much more likely to respond to your direction and leadership, and much less likely to experience emotional distress, substance use, violence and early sexual behavior. Therefore, the more consistent and predictable Time-In is, the more readily and positively we will affect the lives of our children.
Fortunately, so many of the small simple things can reinforce your connection or Time-In with your children. For example, focusing more on shared family meals, bedtime and goodnight rituals, shared ordinary and special time, showing affection, and staying involved and interested, can enhance and reinforce your connection with your child. The “big things” such as how to deal with joy, celebration, pain and suffering (including communication, disagreements, discipline) are also essential for Time-In, and require sufficient time and support to establish as well. Once comfortable with the dynamics of Time-In, which will change as your children grow up, you will be ready to sufficiently protect your children from health risk behaviors and establish the foundation for more effective and rewarding parenting.
In our busy lives, ultimately our job as parents is to point our children in the direction of their own potentials so that they can become confident, resilient, decent, involved and caring members of our world.