Children Deserve Plenty of Quality Time with Parents
QUESTION: I have very little time to spend with my children these days, but I make sure the hours we do get to spend together are meaningful. Do you agree that the quality of time you are with your kids is more important than the quantity?
DR. DOBSON: I’m afraid the logic of that concept is flawed to me. The question is: Why do we have to choose between the virtues of quantity versus quality? We won’t accept that forced choice in any other area of our lives. So why is it only relevant to our children? Let me illustrate my point. Let’s suppose you’ve looked forward all day to eating at one of the finest restaurants in town. The waiter brings you a menu, and you order the most expensive steak in the house. But when the meal arrives, you see a tiny piece of meat about oneinch square in the center of the plate. When you complain about the size of the steak, the waiter says, “Sir, I recognize that the portion is small, but that’s the finest corn-fed beef money can buy. You’ll never find a better bite of meat than we’ve served you tonight. As to the portion, I hope you understand that it’s not the quantity that matters, it’s the quality that counts.” You would object, and for good reason. Why? Because both quality and quantity are important in many areas of our lives, including how we relate to children. They need our time and the best we have to give them. My concern is that the quantity-versus-quality argument might be a poorly disguised rationalization for giving our children — neither. **
QUESTION: My wife and I have two very strong-willed kids who are hard to handle. They seem to need to test us, and they’re the happiest and most contented when we are the toughest on them. Why do they insist on making us growl at them and even punish them more than we’d like to?
DR. DOBSON: It is curious, isn’t it, that some children seem to enjoy fighting with their parents. It’s a function of the pugnacious temperament with which they are born. Many kids just like to run things and seem to enjoy picking fights. There is another factor that is related to a child’s sense of security. Let me illustrate it this way. Imagine you’re driving a car over the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, which is suspended hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. As a first-time traveler, you’re pretty tense as you drive across. It is a scary experience. I knew one little fellow who was so awed by the view over the side of the bridge that he said, “Wow, Daddy! If you fell off of here, it’d kill you constantly!” Now suppose there were no guardrails on the side of the bridge. Where would you steer the car? Right down the middle of the road. Even though you don’t plan to hit those protective railings along the side, you just feel more secure knowing that they’re there. It’s the same way with children. There is security in defined limits. They need to know precisely what the rules are and who’s available to enforce them. Whenever a strong-willed child senses that the boundaries may have moved, or that his or her parents may have lost their nerve, he or she will often precipitate a fight just to test the limits again. They may not admit that they want you to be the boss, but they breathe easier when you prove that you are. **
QUESTION:What do you think of the phrase “Children should be seen and not heard”?
DR. DOBSON: That statement reveals a profound ignorance of children and their needs. I can’t imagine how any loving adult could raise a vulnerable little boy or girl by that philosophy. Children are like clocks, they must be allowed to run! **
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from “Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide” and “Bringing Up Boys,” both published by Tyndale House. COPYRIGHT 2010 JAMES DOBSON INC.
FATHERS’ INFLUENCE KEY TO DAUGHTERS’ SELF-ESTEEM
QUESTION: Talk about a father’s impact on his daughter and what he should hope to accomplish through that relationship.
DR. DOBSON: Fathers have an incalculable impact on their daughters. Most psychologists believe, and I am one of them, that all future romantic relationships are influenced positively or negatively by the way a girl interacts with her dad in the childhood years. If that is true, then fathers should give careful thought to this responsibility and seek to be what their daughters need of them.
There are, I believe, at least seven components to that assignment. First, a dad’s leadership at home should be a model of strength and authority, but always tempered by love and compassion. Harsh discipline tends to close down a sensitive feminine spirit, but permissiveness and capriciousness can create lifelong disdain for men. Second, a dad must remember that he is being watched closely by that little girl around his knees. The way he treats her mother will teach her volumes about how men and women should relate to one another. Blatant disrespect toward his wife will not be missed by the child. Third, I think it is good to begin “dating” a daughter when she is six years of age, or even earlier. Dad should let the child help plan their evenings and then see that they occur when and where promised. These times together are not intended simply for fun, although that is important. The father can also use them to show his daughter how a man treats a woman he respects. He can open doors for her, help her with her chair, and listen attentively when she speaks. Later, when she is a teenager, she will know what to expect — or insist on — from the boys she dates. Fourth, a dad should always look for ways to build the self-confidence of his little girl. If she believes he thinks she is pretty and “special,” she will be inclined to see herself that way. He holds the key to her self-acceptance. Fifth, a father should keep the lines of communication open throughout childhood so that he is seen as someone to whom his daughter can turn when she needs advice. She will need that counsel before she is grown. Sixth, God designed men to be the “providers and protectors” of their families. Their daughters should perceive them that way. Dad is often his little girl’s “hero,” and it is wonderful when that kind of relationship develops. Seventh, a father must be the spiritual leader of his family, making clear his devotion to Jesus Christ and to the principles in Scripture. He should give the highest priority to bringing up his daughters, and his sons, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It’s not an easy responsibility raising girls, is it? But those who do the job properly can rest in the knowledge that they have given their daughters the best chance for a successful marriage, if they choose to wed.
QUESTION: Can boys and girls be taught to treat each other with respect? That seems like a tough assignment.
DR. DOBSON: They certainly can! Young people are naturally more sensitive and empathetic than adults. Their viciousness is a learned response, resulting from the highly competitive and hostile world in which they live – – a world we have allowed to develop. They are destructive to the weak and lowly because we adults haven’t bothered to teach them to feel for one another. One of the values children cherish most is justice. They are uneasy in a world of injustice and abuse. Therefore, when we teach children respect for others by insisting on civility in our classrooms, we’re laying a foundation for human kindness in the world of adulthood to come. It is a fundamental attitude that should be taught in every classroom and every home.
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from “Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide” and “Bringing Up Boys,” both published by Tyndale House.
COPYRIGHT 2010 JAMES DOBSON INC.