Family activities are overrated.

Or at least that is what Thomas Phelan, Ph.D. said in his book “1-2-3 Magic”. At first I was surprised at his statement, and then as I read his reasons I began to agree with him.

In family activities one kid inevitably gets more attention than another one; our energy goes to the fussy baby or the moody teenager or the loudest kid. We have to manage sibling fights, rivalries and relationships and the more people there are the more chance for conflict. Kids aren’t always themselves around their siblings because sometimes they are playing a role in a larger family.

So what to do? Phelan said, “The best parent-child bonding occurs in one-on-one parent-child interactions.”

Although I still think there is merit to family activities, I’ve started spending more one-on-one time with my kids because I am calmer, more patient, and more attentive. I feel more connected and it gives us time to talk on his/her level without anybody else listening or butting in. And I am more fun when I don’t feel the pressure of taking care of everyone.

Here are some different one-on-one times I have had with my children lately:

Crew and I went out on a date. I made him spiffy up because I only go out with clean boys. We ate at a restaurant of his choice. We played tic tac toe and MASH while we waited for dinner. (We were both bummed when my name got crossed off as his potential wife.) Then we went to the local school’s Mother/Son Night where they had a magician perform. All night I had him open the car door for me as well as the door to the restaurant and the school. I figured I better start teaching him now how to treat girls right on a date.

Now one-on-one time doesn’t have to be an expensive date.  It can be anything from snuggles before bed to a walk around the block.

For example, I took just my little daughter, Croft, to the store with me. She sat in the front of the cart and we could talk eye to eye (I’m short) as we went up and down the aisles.  We even had time to make silly faces.

I took just my oldest daughter, Elle, to the library to look for books for a report. I left the other kids home with a babysitter. Because I didn’t have to chase Locke around or worry about how many books the other kids were pulling off the shelves, I actually took the time to teach her how the Dewey Decimal system worked. We could focus on just her and just what books she needed.

Croft goes to preschool in the afternoon and that leaves just Locke and me.  I read him books before his nap time every day. We usually get through about 2 pages before he is ready to move on to the next book. But for a minute it is just me and him.

I know it can be a challenge to make one-on-one time happen.  But I believe where there is a will, there is a way. Have your husband or mom watch the other kids, swap with a friend, hire a babysitter or just send the other kids  downstairs to watch a movie.  I hope in our busy schedules we can all find more one-on-one time with our kids because they need it and so do we!


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