Eight Ways to Make the Minutes Matter
by Tricia Goyer
At 4 p.m. the school bus pulls up in front of the Goyer’s house, and my friend's kids, MaCayla (10) and Audrie (7,) race up the driveway with smiles. These two girls, their younger brother and their parents are living with us for a season after a cross-country move. On a good day, I chat with the girls for a few minutes before I finish a work project or get started with dinner. On not-so-good days, their 8 p.m. bedtime rolls around, and I realize that I haven't said more than 50 words to the kids. And those exchanges consisted of things such as: “Can you turn down the TV? How was school? Can you pass the ketchup?”
Considering the rushed evenings without heart-to-heart connection made me think back to the routines and habits I developed with my kids and about the ideas I've gleaned through the years. Here are eight ways for you to make the minutes matter with your kids:
- Provide a time and space for your child to unwind after school. Instead of jumping into homework right away, make the first moments after school pleasant ones — something to look forward to. For example, set out craft supplies before your child goes to school with promises you'll hang out with them when they get home. Or play a short board game like checkers, hangman or tic-tac-toe. Even 15-20 minutes of doing something fun will start the evening off right.
- Look your child in the eye when he or she is talking to you. The truth is sometimes it's hard for us to switch our attention away from our work or home responsibilities. When I really listen to my kids, I find they open up more than I'd expect.
- Turn off the TVs and computers. Having the television on is like inviting a crowd of people into your living room. Kick those virtual people out and instead appreciate the real people there.
- Eat dinner around the dinner table. As someone who grew up eating dinner off TV trays in the living room, nothing means as much to me as seeing smiling faces around the dinner table.
- Cook dinner together. I know it's faster and easier to do it yourself. Instead of focusing on efficiency and ease, think of cooking as a time of conversation and life skills training.
- Limit extracurricular activities. When my children were in elementary school, we only allowed one activity per child per year. My husband and I made a decision for our family that time together as a family was more important than art lessons or 4H. While there are many wonderful options, the family relationships are ones that are established for life, and we wanted to make sure they were strong.
- Forget Soccer Mom, travel as a family. When my kids were involved in evening activities, my husband rearranged his work schedule to get off early so we could go to soccer practice as a family. While the 5-year-old was chasing the soccer ball, my husband and I played with the older kids in the park and ate a picnic dinner of simple food such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
- Make bedtime fun. Don't waste your time fighting about bed time. Instead create a routine that kids will look forward to. Snuggles on the couch, snacks, a story time and family prayer are all options.
Most of all remember that this day you are making a memory. As you do, try to make the minutes matter ... and you'll find yourself having fun in the process too.
Tricia Goyer is an acclaimed writer, publishing hundreds of magazine articles while authoring more than 25 fiction and nonfiction books combined. Among those are 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award winners Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights. She lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas.