Children and parents differ sharply as to what is quality time spent between them, according to The National KidsDay Meaningful Time Survey, conducted by Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2002.
In essence, the survey shows that, while parents think that instructive time spent with children is quality time (the survey calls this “meaningful time”), children strongly prefer fun time. Children prefer fun time to instructive time by a margin of 49% to 35%, while parents prefer instructive time by a margin of 62% to 35%. Parents tend to want to enrich their parenting experience, while children desire to feel wanted and supported. So, while parents are spending more time with their children than ever, the fact is that children are not happy with how they are spending this time together.
Essentially, this big difference in priorities between children and parents ends up stressing children out. Parents are pushing their kids hard. Multiple studies indicate that children are far more depressed today than they were decades ago. One of the most prominent of these speculates that the reason is that children today have more extrinsic goals – i.e. goals imposed upon them by others like parents – whereas children of the past had more intrinsic goals – i.e. goals they create for themselves.
Regardless of whether parents feel that their strong focus on education-related time with their kids is worth the cost in stress and depression, I hope that we can all acknowledge that this is not the highest quality time from kids’ point of view. They want something else from us. They don’t appreciate being pushed hard to study and learn. They want to be loved and understood. They prefer to enjoy their time with their parents. Is that too much to ask?