No martyrs required

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I apologise. As a parenting organisation we may have given some parents the impression that to raise kids, you have to sacrifice all your time to your children. And that’s simply not true.

There is a fantastic piece of research* in April’s Journal of Marriage and Family. It was done in the States but I hope it applies here. They recorded how much time parents spent with their kids when they were little, and then measured how those same kids were doing later in life. The result – parents who spent more time with their kids did not have kids who did any better. In 19 out of 20 things they measured – like school performance emotional health and behaviour – the kids of parents who spent a lot of time did not do any better than those who spent less.

We are not talking about neglect or absentee parents  – lots of surveys show that kids do need attention and time from parents – but we’re talking about giving kids enough time, and quality time, but not huge amounts of it. In fact mums – and it was mothers they were measuring – who spent lots and lot of time with their kids but who were bored, unhappy and tired actually had a negative impact on their kids.

Here’s another bit of research to cheer you up and reassure you. Parents today spend far more time actually caring for their kids than parents back in the 1970s – mums, nearly twice as much time, and dads three times as much. Measurements show that working mothers now spend more time in quality interaction with their kids than stay-at-home mothers in the 1970s.

What can you take from this? You don’t need to be a martyr to your kids. Of course you make sacrifices, but if you sacrifice those things that make you a less healthy, active and interesting person, you are not helping your kids at all.

*”Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend With Children or Adolescents Matter?” Melissa Milkie et al., Journal of Marriage and Family (April, 2015)

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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