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What Kids Really Want

by Ronald A. Rowe | September 15th, 2011 | Elementary

There’s an expression that goes around in parenting circles: Children don’t care how much money you make, they only care if you’re around -until they’re teenagers. Then, they don’t care if you’re around, they only care about how much money you make. While I certainly hope the second part isn’t true, this is column on Elementary children, so we’ll just focus on the first part, which I’ve found to be very accurate.

I’ll take it a step further. Kids don’t really care what you do with them, they just want YOU to do SOMETHING with them. As a writer, there have been numerous times when I took my first son to the park to let him play while I tapped away on my laptop. I thought it was a win-win-win situation. He got to play, I got some work done, my lovely wife got us both out of the house for a little while. Those trips, I eventually learned, were far less satisfying than the times when I left the laptop at home and played with him at the park. In fact, we could skip the park altogether and just play together at home as long as he had my undivided attention.

Now that a little brother has entered into the mix, I’ve found that alone time with one child is far more rewarding (for them) than taking the two together. There is something about that undivided attention, that means so much to a child at 5, 7, 10 years old. They will remember that long after a trip to the park is gone and forgotten.

In the fast paced and overly-connected world of the 21st century, it can be hard to set aside time to give our children 100% focus. But I am now convinced that 20 minutes of undivided attention is better than an hour of time divided. That means no computer, no ESPN (even if it’s “just in the background”) and especially no cell phone.

Make a commitment to take each of your children – individually, if at all possible – on a date night this month. Just you and him or her, one on one. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or expensive. A trip to the ice cream shop, a movie, a walk around the lake – just make sure that your child knows that he or she has all of your attention for an evening. Let the cell phone go to voicemail. It will be time you both remember and cherish for years to come.

  1. No cell phone is a big one. I deffo don’t want to teach my kid that it’s “ok” to have his nose buried in his smartphone all the time. But it’s harder to avoid than one might think, especially if you work from home and get emails and social media messages at all hours.

  2. Michele says:

    As the mom of four, three being teens, they still really do crave attention. (Though they do like money also.) More than ever those snippets of time spent one-on-one are valuable.

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