Christian Parents and the Quality Versus Quantity Time Debate

Christian Parents and the Quality Versus Quantity Time DebateIt happened again today. The morning shows on television were trumpeting the results of some new study “proving” the quality of the time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. These sorts of reports and studies circulate periodically, reassuring over scheduled, working parents their children will be “just fine” with the few minutes of time a day most spend with them.

It’s not that I disagree with the study in theory. Even before smart phones and computers, there were many parents who were in the same house or even the same room with their children for many hours a day without meaningful interaction with them. On the other hand, I always wonder what the standard for “just fine” really is, not just in these studies, but in God’s eyes.

One of my favorite parenting verses is Deuteronomy 11:19 “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (NIV) It sounds like God sets up a parenting expectation of quality and quantity time. God is calling parents to raise children equipped not just to obey God, but to glorify Him, serve others and share their faith. In today’s world, that is not as easy to do as one would hope.

Biblical parenting involves not just teaching children God’s commands, but how to behave in godly ways when they may be the only ones around even thinking about what God wants. It’s about not just shaping behaviors to acceptable societal norms, but molding hearts towards God. Biblical parenting means showing children not just to take pity on others and “help”, but to show true empathy, serve in meaningful ways and point others to God while they are serving them.

It requires parenting children to live outside of the norm. Way outside. You know that little piece of the bell curve that flattens out at the far right side. The studies are right. You can’t phone in that kind of parenting. It takes a lot of planning, praying and high quality interactions.

Like the verse in Deuteronomy points out though, it can’t be done quickly either. A few minutes a day means over the course of a year, you may have spent a handful of hours with your child. Think about how long it has taken you to really understand God’s word and figure out how to put it into practice in your daily life. It takes a lot of teaching, modeling, correcting and fine-tuning. Especially with children, who are having so much to learn in every facet of their lives. All of that takes time, no matter how high the quality of your interactions are.

I realize time is a valuable commodity and some are in situations so complex it is difficult, if not impossible, to increase the amount of time, quality or otherwise you spend with your children. Often though, it is our priorities that must be re-examined. Your children will only live in your home for a few years. After they leave, your interactions and influence will never again be as intense as it is when they are living in your home. Are you taking full advantage of those precious years? Are you giving your children the quality and quantity of time they really need to be not “just fine”, but the sort of fine God wants for all of His children?

I encourage you to really pay attention over the next few days and weeks. What types of interactions are you having with your children? Is there a pattern that needs to be shifted? Be brutally honest with yourself, because this is one area that’s so important, you and your children can’t afford for it to be ignored.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)