February 15, 2007

Quality Time?

There is a term that I hear bantered about these days as I travel the country teaching parenting skills. It is the term “Quality Time”. Many parents tell me that they spend quality time with their children… to which I always say, “Bull-oney!”

T_I_M_E !

In raising children, there is TIME… period. No human being holds the power to turn on the switch for “quality” time! I could not come up to you and grab your arm, pull you aside and demand that right now you and I are going to have quality time! And… it is not possible to do that with children either!

Children spell love T-I-M-E!

When dealing with a child there is just plain old time. This is really a simple concept to understand. Time. As a parent you give minutes that turn into hours, hours that turn into days, days that turn into weeks, and weeks that turn into months, and months that turn into years! But, there is just time. As a parent YOU must decide how much of it you will spend with your children!

As a parent, you must give time to your children. Then, I will grant you that some of it will be of more significant “quality” than other bits of time. But just remember that you can never recapture time. Once it is past you cannot go back and reclaim it. Time passes and no person can turn it back. If you decide to take spend an hour away from your children… you will never get it back.

I would be willing to bet that Andy Reid, the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, wishes he could turn back the clock today to reclaim some time needed to teach his two boys how to make the critical decisions about the use of drugs and how those drugs will certainly ruin their lives!

Now, please do not get me wrong here, I was privileged to personally meet Andy Reid three years ago at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. I found him to be a very cordial and likeable man. He seemed to be humble and easy to talk to. We were on the decks of a battleship in Pearl Harbor for a party for the players, coaches, and families of the Pro Bowl participants. It was a nice opportunity for me to get to know a fellow who I have seen on TV many times. I was a football coach for thirty years and it was fun to meet one of the best coaches in the NFL. However, on that evening, I must admit that I wondered where Andy’s children were. Perhaps if he had been with his children rather than talking with me he might have had the time needed.

Not Sitting in Judgement

Now, I am not pointing my finger at that Coach Reid. I am not qualified to judge any person. But, he seemed like such a man of principle, so I do wonder if he might be regretting some of the time he has not spent with his children as he looks back today. His two boys may have made terrible decisions even if Andy had spent more time with them, but he will never know. Time might not have helped to avoid the mess that they find themselves in today but then again it just might. Perhaps in one of those hours he spent away from his children he might have been able to offer an idea about making that critical decision.

Strong Fathers

I have watched the job of being one of the key figures in the NFL pull many fathers away from their children. I have also watched other men stand up to that pressure by demanding the right to take time for their children. I have closely watched our son balance the role of being a father with the rigors and time commitments of the demanding role of an NFL quarterback. I have watched him stand up to the demands and say, “there are some times that this job comes in a distant second in my life. My Family comes first.” The NFL often does not seem to like to hear that, but in the role of Father, many men need to make that statement!

Being a Father requires time. It cannot be divided time. It must be time spent with their children on a daily basis. With huge pressures being exerted by big jobs, it is the strong man who can stand up and say, “This is my time with my family!”

There was a day at a Dallas Cowboys game a year ago when the game was over and our son Drew had left the locker room to come meet his family up in one of the booths at Texas Stadium. That was time he gave to his children after every game. Right in the middle of the most demanding hours of his job, he would always come up, get his kids and then go down to the field and throw passes to his own children on the game field. This was his time, on every game day, for him to spend with his children right in the midst of the crush of the NFL demands. I watched as some fans pushed their way into the booth, pushed his children out of the way, and crowded around Drew demanding autographs. I was amazed at how calmly Drew asked those people to leave and respect his time with his own children. He was not rude, but he very carefully pulled his children around him and asked the fans politely to leave and let him spend time with his own children. I watched as the fans became angry and called our son some unflattering names, but I also watched as he unwaveringly stood his ground on behalf of his children. I watched as his children’s eyes looked up at their strong father. I heard them as they laughed with their Dad as they ran to catch passes from him moments later down on the field. Their Dad was spending time with his kids! It is not too hard to understand why he is able to teach his children at other times. He has earned their respect with his time!

I would also be willing to bet that Tony Dungy, the Super Bowl winning coach of the Colts, would gladly give back some of his time spent at the office, if it would bring his son back! Tony Dungy seems to be a great man. Hisson seemed to have some problems that transcended his father's involvement with him. Again, I cannot say whether more time would have changed the outcome for Caoch dungy and his son, but we will never know!

I think it was admirable that Coach Dungy did not bring his team to Miami for Super Bowl until Monday, saying that he felt his team needed to be with their families on Sunday. He seems to realize thevalue of family time. He showed great courage in the face of the great pressure of the “Biggest Game of the Year”. I just wish that more Fathers would take those kinds of stands on behalf of their children.

Juggling Demands

As a Dad it may be difficult to juggle the demands of a job with the responsibilities of being a Father. That is why our Parenting with Dignity program spends two full hours of our nine week course on the topic of “Deciding what You Want”! The decision to spend time with your children must be made well ahead of time, or you can find yourself in the difficult situation of spending too much time away from your children almost by accident!

Time Requires a Commitment

Armed with a firm commitment that you will spend time with your children, the decision becomes quite easy. Just remember that the ideas in your head will rule your world! Pick the idea that “I spend lots of time with my children” and the decision becomes easy. You already made the decision when you chose that idea to rule your world!

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