H. Axelrod, M.D.
H. Axelrod, M.D.
You can't be a good parent
if you're worn out at the end of every day. There should be a specific endpoint
to the day Ð usually no later than eight-thirty or nine o'clock for most children
under the age of 10. That gives you at least an hour to be able to relax, talk,
and do some things for yourself, and it helps to prevent parental burnout.
to prevent burnout is by trading time with your spouse. For example, there may
be nights when you're too preoccupied to spend much time with the children. Or
maybe your spouse has spent all day at home and has just had one of those days,
with the washing machine broken and the baby running a fever.
for parents to feel free to ask each other for a night off once in a while. And
it's fine to tell your children that you need time off, too: "I know we were supposed
to play a game after dinner tonight," you might say, "but I had a really hard
day today and I just want to sit and watch a ball game tonight. I'm sorry; we'll
play tomorrow. Would you like to watch the game with me tonight?" If you've established
basic trust Ð if a child knows that tomorrow really means tomorrow and not next
week or next year Ð then by and large he or she will be pretty forgiving. (If
you don't do this very often!)
need time in order to grow. As difficult as it may be, the time-clock mentality
has to be left behind at the office. Toilet training might take less than a day.
Or it might take three months. We can't bring our adult expectations to it. We
permit children to flourish when we let them live according to a child's pace,
rather than trying to make them adapt to our pace.
will say that's fine in theory, but where are we going to find all this extra
time? There are only so many hours in the day.
in a sense we've gone in the wrong direction by trying to wring the most out of
each hour that we do have. With the best of intentions, we tend to overbook our
children Ð and ourselves Ð in order to expose them to every possible advantage.
however, children need fewer structured hours. They need time to grow, explore,
and work out things in their own way and at their own pace.
to ask yourself and your partner:
- Does your family have
more demands on its time than when you were a child? If so, why?
- When you were your child's
age, how did you like to spend your free time? What kinds of things did you like
to do? What kinds of things did you not like to do?
- How much time did your
parents spend with you ? What kinds of things did you do together? What kinds
of things would you have liked them to have done with you?
- Realistically, how much
time do you have every week for your children? How do you spend that time?
to ask your child:
- What do you like that
we do together? What don't you like?
- We don't always have time
to do everything we'd like together. Tell me the two or three most important things
you would like us to do with you.
- How do you feel about
the way we spend time? Do you feel we really pay attention to you when we're doing
- Are the activities we
do together fun? Which are and which aren't? Why or why not?
From the book
"The Joy of Parenting"
By Bruce H. Axelrod, M.D.