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How Much Time is Enough? Quantity Vs Quality Time with your Children

Updated on August 23, 2014

Quality Vs. Quantity Time

It's not which road, it's who the driver is.
It's not which road, it's who the driver is.

The Question of Working or Staying Home

Each family must decide what is best as far as the time that parents spend working outside the home. If one parent can provide enough financial stability to allow the other parent to stay home with kids, then it becomes a question of preference.

When I tell people that my wife is staying home with our daughter, I get interesting reactions. Everyone says the same thing, but they mean different things when they say these things.

I usually hear, "Oh, that's great! I wish I could stay home with my kids." I think this same basic response can carry different meanings. Some people may genuinely wish that they could stay home with the kids, but others may be saying this to reassure themselves that they made the right decision.

In a strange way, I interpret some of these comments as a self-serving statement of the higher value of working outside the home due to financial needs. It seems easy to convince yourself that working and having someone else raise your kids is necessary, but when they hear about someone who has an actual parent raising the kid it could be like salt in a sub-conscious wound.

For our family, it made sense for my wife to hang out with our kid financially. We didn't have ot have a lot of discussions and difficulty making that decision because my wife worked at a day care. In other words, she made low enough wages that other people could drop their kids off with her for the day and actually come out with a higher amount at the end of the day. She also liked the work, but now she gets to work with her own kid instead of other people's kids.

Not everyone has the blessing of a situation of low earning like we did. Some people would have to give up much more money by choosing to stay at home with kids.

So this brings up a great debate. Which is more important? Should parents focus on quantity or quality of time spent with their kids?

How Much Time do Parents Spend with Kids 'These Days?'

Many times, people will look back on the "good ole days" with nostalgic feelings and an impression of a utopia that never existed. This may be the case when you hear people talk about how much time parents used to spend with their kids. Laura Vanderkam reports her findings of social science studies which revealed, "parents are spending a lot more time interacting with their kids now than they did in, say, 1965."

The Population Reference Bureau studies child care time since 1965 in a longitudinal study, finding that figure falling until 1985 when time with kids steadily rose for both fathers and mothers. It turns out that more parents are multitasking their time with kids due to higher rates of both parents working outside the home. This may be an indicator of lowered quality while quantity hours have risen.

So, if parents are spending time with their kids these days, then why would people be worried about the expected moral decay of society due to lack of good parenting? What could be the larger question is: How are parents spending their time with their kids? And furthermore, who are these parents who are the role models for kids?

What is Enough Quantity for You?

How many hours do you think parents should spend with their kids per week

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Quality Time with Kids or Quantity Time with Kids

Some people say, "it's not the quantity of time you spend with the kids, it's the quality." Others argue that mothers should stay at home with children and not work outside the home. The true answer comes down to the goal. What is it that you want for your children? Do you want your kid to like you? Do you want to have an influence? Do you want your kids to succeed in life?

A better question to ask is who am I? Parental influence is huge, and even with limited time, kids are watching and living in the environment created by parents.

Ask yourself these questions first:

  • What do I want to teach my kids?
  • Am I a good influence on my children?
  • Do I want to spend time with my children?
  • How many books do I have in my house?
  • Did I pass on good genes to my children?

That last two probably sound like a joke, but in a book titled Freakonomics evidence is given for what you would not expect. The authors Levitt and Dubner found that parental reading time with kids mattered less than how many books were in the house. What this means is that it is more of a question of who you are than how or how much time you spend trying to mold and improve your children. If you are uneducated yourself, then your children aren't going to be educated by you. If you have an anger problem, then your children will learn that from you. Genetics play some part also, reinforcing the importance of who you are.

What is Quality Time?

Which of these do you recognize as the highest quality time you can spend with your kids?

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What Quality and Quantity of Influence are you

If you are not a good influence on your children, then it will be better for you to spend what time you have bettering yourself. Improve yourself so that you can give your children a better representation of a healthy, successful, loving parent.

If you are a good influence on your children, then you probably already know how to spend time with your children. You love them, so you are going to make the best decision for them. Relax and be confident that WHO you are is much more important in the long run, and you are doing your best.

Relationship Between Quality Time and Quantity of Time Spent with Kids

For the most part, quantity correlates with quantity. As time increases with someone, a person will go from small talk to more important conversation. This is also true of spending time with kids. Also, as quality of time spent with kids increases, kids are more likely to want to spend time with their parents. Unfortunately, there are limits.

At the point where parents are hovering and spending too much time involved in their kids' lives, quality no longer becomes possible. An unhealthy relationship has manifested. Keep this in mind as you decide the right balance of "hands on" versus "hands off" parenting. Most kids have a threshold of an amount of time that they can spend with parents without becoming stressed. Parents can blur the boundaries between friend and parent when quantity of quality time is too important.

Quantity and Quality Relationship

There is a limit to how much time you should spend with your kids before it is no longer "quality" time.
There is a limit to how much time you should spend with your kids before it is no longer "quality" time. | Source


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    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Blake, interesting thoughts; but a few points kind of struck me enough to want to comment: Parents need to know that it isn't enough to just want to spend time with children. "Quality time" may seem like an over-used/cliché term, but children need that one-on-one, high-quality, attention of having one and/or both parents really talk to them and really enjoy that the time with them. Maybe the question of "quality versis quantity" shouldn't be asked, but "How much quality time do I really spend is one that parents should never forget.

      "How many books do I have in the house" maybe should be "Is reading a part of everyone's life in this family?" Having a lot of books in the house doesn't mean children are reading them.

      Most importantly, as you may already know, in the first three years of a child's life his brain is actually forming synapses that will help determine not just what kind of person he is, but whether his immune system and stress response system work appropriately for the rest of his life. As the mother of two grown sons and one daughter, all of whom were very similar "types" of children when they were little, I have to say that I put little weight to "passing on good genes" when it comes to a child's personality, behavior, and sense of security. One of my sons was adopted from infancy from someone who wouldn't seem to have had "the best genes" in the world (established unfit parents, with a birth mother said to be of a "limited mental capacity"). When I think of the time, thought, study, planning, and care I put into raising my three children; and when I see the results of all that thought, work, care, and attention; I know they are not accidents of "good genes". I planned for the kind of parent I would be, and I followed through on my plans - and I got the kind of kids I wanted to have (complete with my own mini nature/nurture experiment).

      I agree with your premise that the question shouldn't be quality time versus quantity time, but all that planning, thinking, working, talking, giving attention, etc., that I did with my three children was "quality time".

    • Blake Flannery profile image

      Blake Flannery 7 years ago from United States

      Lisa HW,

      You are right about the synaptic pruning that happens with children. If children are raised in a state of constant disruption and terror, their brains will develop lower level cognitive abilities. Of course I actually believe that quality time and a lot of it is the best thing for kids. I wanted to bring up the point that who you are as a parent can determine outcomes on children. When I say who you are I mean everything from what you know, to how you behave, and how you spend time with kids. I am grateful to my parents for who they are and the limitless quality time they supplied me.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Blake, like you, I'm grateful for the two good parents I had. I very much agree that what we, parents, are as people is crucial. Too many parents expect children to be better people than they, the parents, are themselves.

    • Rich_Id profile image

      Rich_Id 7 years ago from Seattle

      Hey Blake,

      The quality vs quantity argument may be a red herring. As if it were either/or, not both/and.

      I think quantity has to meet a minimum threshold as a feature of quality. In other words the best quality in the world will not be quality if there is not enough of it. It would be like giving you a crumb of the most nutritious food in the world. You will still starve unless you get enough.

      There is some research evidence that even abusive parenting is better than neglect.

      Thank you for this.

      I invite you to become a fan of mine and check out my hubs.

    • Blake Flannery profile image

      Blake Flannery 7 years ago from United States


      I agree with you. Both quality time and quantity of that time are important. It is an interesting that you have found that abusive parenting is possibly better than neglect. Neglect seems to me to be a form of abusive parenting, so I wonder what form of abuse has been compared to neglect. Neglect may be the absence of parenting, with would be the extreme of low quantity of time. In this case murdering your kid would be an extreme form of physical abuse. Obviously locking a kid in a closet for a year would really screw them up, but this is not simply neglect.

      Thanks for the info and the thought. You gave me more to ponder, such as what forms of abuse are the worst? What forms are kids more resilient after experiencing? Is doing something, even if it is wrong better than doing nothing with a kid? These are big questions.

    • Paul H Gardner profile image

      Paul H Gardner 7 years ago from Dixon, Ky

      Blake, you have a lot of good points about time spent with children. Others who have commented have some good points. I think there needs to be good quanity time as well as quality time. I think it boils down to simply loving, nuruturing, providing, careing, encouraging, educating and in living life to do things the right way and to treat others the same. It is about fidelity in parental relationships. It is about honesty and integrity. Children learn all of these things from parents.

    • profile image

      itakins 7 years ago

      Hi Blake,

      I'm a newcomer to hubbing and just came across this really good hub of yours.There is a saying ,with regard to parenting, that ''you can substitute for everything,except your presence''.As a mother of 10 (and Irish!),I believe this to be very true.


    • profile image

      drew 7 years ago

      Are opinions are great but are there any studies that have been done in to compare?

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