“I don’t have time!”
I cannot tell you how many times while raising my children that phrase came flying out of my mouth. I was a single mom working 50-plus hours a week and raising four children on my own. Not overly demanding, my children would ask me the normal adolescent questions:
“Can you help with my homework?”
“Are you coming to my game?”
“Can you take me to my friend’s house?”
My first response to these needs soon became, “I don’t have time.” But what were my children really hearing?
As parents, we’re all so busy. We juggle our children’s schedules and social calendars with our careers, meetings and appointments, just to mention a few. Sometimes we really don’t have time to do all the things we would like.
Has “I don’t have time” become your first response as it became mine? What do our children really hear when we say that? What are we communicating to them?
I will never forget the time my youngest daughter asked me to help her with a project for a church trip. She started the conversation by saying, “I know you don’t have time,” before continuing with, “but I really need you to help me.” It broke my heart. For the first time, my eyes were open to the hurt I caused my daughter with that one statement. Rather than continuing in that cycle of inflicting pain on those I loved the most, I made the commitment to change.
When we say, “I don’t have time,” our children hear, “I’m not important,” “I don’t care,” or “What you are doing is more important than my needs.” Ouch!
It can hurt when we unintentionally inflict this pain when dealing with our children. It was certainly not my intent with my daughter. We love our children and we do not ever want to communicate that what we have going on is more important than their needs or that their needs don’t matter.
So how do we communicate to our children in ways that do not devalue them, especially when we’re busy, pressed for time and feeling the pressure of a commitment we’re not sure we can keep?
First, take just a minute and listen to their need. Then, encourage your child by assuring them that their need is important to you. If can’t make a decision right that moment, tell them when they can expect an answer from you. Remember, as parents, you have permission to set boundaries and not make on-the-spot decisions. However, keep the waiting time short. And if you have to check the schedule or want to discuss later, make sure you follow through.
I listened to my daughter’s needs for her trip. Although I was not equipped to help her the way she asked me to, I was able secure someone else’s assistance. When I asked her to forgive me for telling her “I don’t have time” every time she needed me, and I took the time to listen and help, she felt loved. Isn’t that what we want for our children? For them to accomplish their goals, know they are loved and to be a part of their lives? Listen, love and make time for your children!
By // Rev. Teresa Logue, Center Director, Home of Hope