For years, sociologists, governments and parents have tried to determine whether theamount of time a parent spends with their child actually matters.
There are three obvious reasons why children need an abundance of time with parents.
1. Parents, especially mothers, have a physical need to be with and raise their children - it's biological and self-evident.
As president of The Worldwide Organization For Women and founder of Teaching Self-Government, I meet with parents worldwide to discuss their family relationships, stresses, family problems and desires. One of the most common statements I hear from parents is, "I know I need to spend more time with my children." These parents already know the answer to the child's behavioral problem or to their own problem of feeling unfulfilled in parenthood. The answer is just that - time with their children.
Taking time to be a parent is a physical and emotional need for mothers. From the beginning, not only does the child biologically need the mother, but also vice-versa. Review this report given at the United Nations Conference by sociologist Margunn Bjornhølt, the director of policy and social research in Norway. In it, Bjornhølt and the expert panel agreed that women have reported more happiness and fulfillment when they have more time at home raising their children. This fact was given as a reason countries, like Norway, are continuing to increase the length of their maternity and paternity leave with pay programs.
Humans have a physical, spiritual and emotional need to nurture their young, and often feel depression and stress when they don't.
2. Children need quantity of and quality time with parents, not conformity to social customs.
Children also have a self-evident physical, spiritual and emotional need to connect to parents. Children need quantity of and quality time with parents for proper social, emotional, mental and physical safety and development - as well as for confidence in life.
Children who spend more time with their parents are generally happier, healthier, more obedient, better communicators, more motivated, harder working, good problem solvers and better students.
Even extreme situations illustrate the self-evident need a child has for a parent. As a foster parent for troubled youth, I repeatedly saw children who were abused want to return home to their abusive parent because of a bond, even though damaged, that the child needs for security.
Probably the most overwhelmingly obvious point that's being missed by researchers is that in the last 60 years - since time with peers at school and afterward has increased for children, and time away from parents has decreased due to busy lifestyles - child sexual activity, pregnancy, teen drug use, childhood depression and teen suicide have all increased.
About quality time: It doesn't do us any good to discuss spending quality time with children unless quality time is actually understood. Only comparing one activity to another and determining that one activity ranks higher than the other for reason of virtue, character or principle can determine quality time.
The opposite of quality is conformity. Conformity is being in agreement to a model, form or manner. It's resembling or agreeing with a common goal, moral or standard. Many families today are in a state of conformity. For example, "fitting in" with the social standard for education, child sports or activities, number of electronic devices, or the time usage of those devices are some of the most common.
A parent, who really wants quality time, must also embrace quantity of time. The very act of being together as a family creates a culture that's counter to the popular social conformity messages surrounding them daily.
Working and talking side-by-side throughout a whole summer day is true quality time. A child never forgets learning to plant a garden, paint a fence or preserve peaches with their parent. Every minute is not full of planned talking, but the closeness and unity felt transforms the relationship into something that will last a lifetime.
Parents who spend more time with children have more of an influence in their children's lives.
Additionally, children shouldn't feel put off or like they need to be scheduled in. When parents have lots of casual, unplanned time with children, they feel like an important part of their parent's life. Children need to know they're a priority. Quantity of time teaches that.
3. Children naturally look for leaders
It's human nature for us to want a leader to tell us or show us what to do. Who will lead our children? The current options for the leaders of children are parents, peers or the media.
A wise parent recognizes the leader is the person who captures the majority of the child's time. Quantity of time equals quantity of exposure to ideas and instructions. We must determine whom our children spend the most time with, and when we find the answer, we must make adjustments to switch leadership back to the parents. It's self-evident that God determined children need parents as their leaders; not pop stars, screens or schoolmates.
No matter what social scientists say about how much time children need or don't need with their parents, parents should look to the obvious truths before making a decision. Parents, especially mothers, need to be with their children to be happy and fulfilled. And children need their parents for security and identity.
Parents who spend a larger quantity of time with children will naturally have more quality time, and both are essential for avoiding conformity. Everyone chooses a leader from the people they see most. No matter what capacity parents think is more powerful or more important, there will never be any role more powerful or influential as the historically proven, powerful role of a parent.