Bookends. With your time.

Bookends. With your time.

As a psychologist who works mostly with kids and families, I have seen time and time again that so often the best healer of mental health problems in our kids is simply more quality time with parents. In fact, sometimes, I would see a family just once or twice and “prescribe” them some quality family time together because I truly believed they didn’t really need therapy, they just needed each other.

The 10-20-10 rule

I was recently reading another parenting book that talked about a 10-20-10 rule for spending time with our kids. Ten minutes in the morning, 20 minutes after school or work, and 10 minutes in the evening. Bookend your time together and then a bonus in the middle!

A couple of years ago, I conducted a short survey with parents.  I asked them approximately how much time they spend attending to their child throughout the day. The average was approximately 22 minutes. Just 22 minutes! Unfortunately, this is consistent with what other researchers have found as well (some of them reported even fewer minutes with our kids).

Although this sounds low, I framed the question as this: “How much time do you spend fully attending to your child?”  In my workshops, I share this information alongside the parallel question: “How much time do you spend fully attending to your work/email/phone/etc.?” When thinking about it with these two parallel questions, parents are almost always shocked at how unbalanced their time tends to be.


Similar to the bookend rule, I teach a parent-child connection tool called pairing. This strategy involves spending intentional time with your child to reconnect immediately following any time away from one another.  Pairing and the 10-20-10 rule are two simple parenting strategies that are often the key to connecting with your child and minimizing problem behavior from them.

So how do you spend your morning time with you child? How about time in the evenings? Or in the middle of the day?

The biggest thing to remember is that we want to have that time be intentionally about your child’s interest.If they want to talk about legos for 10 minutes, let them! If they want to tell you a six-minute recall of something they did yesterday, encourage it! So often, it’s these small moments that mean the most to our kids (and us too!).

Make a commitment

Can you commit to spending quality time in the morning, evening, and sometime in the middle of the day? 

What might that look like? For me, it is almost always a warm greeting in the morning – hugs, cuddles, smiles. I am not as great in the evenings because sometimes I feel too tired! But I love reading or just laying in the bed next to the kids to talk about what matters to them that day. I always, always cherish those moments with them. What do you want that to look like for you? Remember – be intentional!


Sidenote: As I was working on a title for this post, I realized that it might not be too long before bookends become obsolete! They may become like phones on the wall with the curly cord that we used to use before cell phones (that my kids wonder what the heck they are!).


Photo Cred: Huynh Dat