I read an interesting interview on Parent Wonder with Guy Kawasaki about fathering/parenting four children. This interview, while short, was intriguing to me as I have three children and frequently get wrapped up in technology and seeing how it can be used to better parenting (hence my quote “…where technology and fatherhood collide…”). But really, the answers below (mine and Guy’s) can be applied to anyone. Some highlights of the article that particularly hit me are as follow:
Parent Wonder Question #1: “…best gift you could give your children?”
Guy Kawasaki Answer: “…the answer is clearly ‘time.’ That is, being with them all the time and not fucusing on this fiction called ‘quality time.’ ”
HTD response: This is a very important point. What Guy says here is basically, don’t just create a “one-time-shot” for quality time like a vacation, make it something that happens all of the time. I believe you need to spend time with your kids ALL of the time. I’m not saying huge amounts of time every day. Little bits add up. I think that it is important to spend a minimum amount of time EACH DAY with your children, whether it is doing homework with them, eating dinner and talking about their day, getting down on the floor and playing with them, taking them to a place they like (e.g., a museum or the zoo like the Lindsay Wildlife Museum) or taking them on a vacation (our favorites are Monterey Bay Aquarium, Lake Tahoe or Disneyland – I have a bunch of princesses). However, if you have a job that takes long hours or a lot of travel, you need to be sure that the time that you DO spend is spent wisely. I know plenty of people who when they have “down time” (like weekends), they go golfing or do things away from their kids…that is obviously their right and I cannot tell them that is it the wrong decision. All that I can say is that I personally don’t want my kids to remember their childhood as a time where their dad was not around for them. The bonds that you make now are the foundation…it is hard to build a foundation when they are teenagers or off at college. So make the effort while they are young if you can!
P.W. Q#2: “…biggest parenting mistake…?”
G.K A: “…I often wonder we should ram piano, other languages, and extra math classes down their throat so they can be over achievers like every other Silicon Valley parent strives for. It’s a fine line between under-parenting and over-parenting.”
HTD response: I was actually pleasantly surprised with this response. Just today I was having a conversation with my wife about whether or not we should put our oldest child into an intensive French class. While we haven’t made up our mind on this, my thought was more of a “wait-and-see” approach. Third grade just started, our eldest is playing soccer and will be potentially doing jazz dance (dancing is a passion of hers, as is drawing). I don’t yet have a sense of how much homework she will have so I was (perhaps erroneously but I don’t know yet) initially against adding on more extra-curricular activities. I, too, believe that we spread our kids too thin with activities. I, personally, do over-commit on things and then sometime am unable to do quality jobs…just maxing out the quantity of things in a half-assed way, instead of doing a few things with quality. The one part of Guy’s response that I left out was that he lets his kids play a lot of electronic games. There have been so many studies about this, some good and some bad. I believe that everything is moderation is probably the best approach. I personally love playing PSP, Wii, Xbox, you name it. The Wii is a “treat” for my kids and actually has become a good source of parent-child time for me and my kids. We play the Wii Sports and I try to teach them concepts of teamwork, saying NICE things (“good try” or “great shot” or anything positive) and truly trying to stifle any negative comments or actions. So I was happy that Guy mentioned that (grin).
P.W. Q#3: “…how do you balance between [work], your writing and your four children?…”
G.K. A: “Who says that I balance everything? It’s very difficult. I just try to do what I can…”
HTD response: I think the snippet above just truly sums it up. There is no golden answer here. Try not to be selfish (it’s hard, I admit, sometimes I just want to do things only for me). Also, why can’t there be 48 hours in the day (I sure could use more than 5 hours of sleep a night). Finding time for work, kids, MY WIFE (frequently overlooked), friends & family, and my personal passions (technology, blogging, etc.) is really hard to do on a regular and balanced basis. So, you may have to sacrifice some things for others, prioritize and let some things slide. I have always tried to set some clear boundaries between my work and my family, and it has been difficult. I purposefully made my work schedule on the early side (work 7a to 4p so that I can have dinner and do homework and spend time with my kids and wife). I have also tried to minimize the amount of work travel that I have to do. Both of these personal decisions have been difficult to stick to, potentially limited my career options, and make me need to continually justify myself and my position, but in the long run, my kids know that I come home at the same time every day, that I will be there handing the evening tasks, and spending time with them, which is worth its weight in gold. Note: this is not for everybody, especially if you are super career-driven. Just do what works for you. My wife, for example, sacrificed her entire journalism career, in lieu of being a stay-at-home mother. She has now been out of the workforce for 8 years plus and is struggling to find a new direction for herself. And she doesn’t get monetarily compensated for her actions (but she should!). Bottom line, you have to make some tough decisions and then stick to them. Children need consistency so just be stable for them.
P.W. Q#4: “…best way to teach children about business and money?”
G.K. A: “I struggle with this issue. If you pay them to do chores, then they learn the value of work. But they should also learn the intrinsic value of work and how they are obligated to contribute to the family. I think the answer is to establish a baseline of stuff that they have to do and they get paid for efforts above and beyond the call of duty.”
HTD response: I decided to quote the entire answer here. This makes sense to me, not that I’m responsible with money (far from it). We pay our kids for doing chores, but I must admit, it is very loosely defined and probably should have a better structure. My children are probably a bit too young to understand. Also, I am starting to see how money and value are starting to be taught in school as you progress through grade levels. I had an idea about how to use Tivo to teach kids about rewards and budgeting…Tivo never responded to it but who knows, maybe they will some time. I think the “baseline” concept that Guy talks about is a good approach that I may consider trying out.
P.W Q#5: “…biggest problem you ever faced so far as a father…?”
G.K. A: “It’s hard to know when to draw the line: do you let them explore, rebel, etc or keep a tight rein? Is too loose a rein going to cause them to go off the deep end? Is too tight a rein going cause them to rebel later–so you win the battle, but lose the war?”
HTD response: Again, a balancing act. Parents should be trained in the circus with the amount of high-wire, tightrope performances that we do! There are, again, many different approaches to this. If you are too strict, your kids will try to sneak things by you; too lax and you run the risk of your kids maturing too soon or getting into trouble early. My wife and I tend to go on the more strict side. Children need boundaries and need them clearly defined. If you waffle and, as I mentioned previously, are inconsistent, they will be confused, may start to lack confidence, and may not be allowed to blossom. Where do you draw the limits? That depends on the parents. For example, our family probably has the earliest “bed time” of all of our kids’ peers. There are many reasons for this (some selfish – parents need time together without kids to get stuff done), others are so that we can be sure that our children are getting a good night’s sleep. However, bed time, in our family, is simply defined as, “you are in your room, in bed, and quiet.” Since the ages of my kids are different, this could mean different things to them (and this is okay). The oldest, while in bed, is allowed to read till a later hour. She CANNOT watch TV or play on the computer. The other ones typically fall asleep or talk to each other for a while, telling stories and such. It’s all about down-time and quiet time so that they can decompress from the day. This works for us now, for how long, I don’t know. This might not work for others.
Anyway, this interview at Parent Wonder was good for me. It got me thinking about how I do things personally and with my family. I hope that my insight and commentary helps my readers…even if only one person, that is enough!
HTD says: Thanks for reading!