Ten-minute guides, ten-minute workouts, ten-minute meals, ten-minute devotionals—the bestsellers aimed at busy people often give the impression that everything can be accomplished in ten-minutes or less.
This is hardly true of parenting. No way around it: Raising children demands a massive investment of time and energy. It takes long range planning, goal setting, and determination to persevere over the long haul.
Sometimes, though, in our desire to develop the perfect comprehensive parenting strategy, we get bogged down. The task can seem so daunting that paralysis sets in.
Here’s where the “ten-minute” approach can help. Larger goals can be broken down. Action steps can be identified. Even if they don’t look like much, even baby steps keep you moving ahead.
Here, then, is a sampling of thirty-one simple, practical ideas that my wife and I found helpful over the years in raising our own family—one for each day of the month. Or, if that seems too ambitious, just pick one or two ideas to implement each week. You’ll find them easily adaptable to your own family situation, and most take ten-minutes or less.
So why not resolve to be a ten-minute parent this month? The benefits may surprise you.
- With your spouse, choose one or two areas that you can help each child to work on during this month.
- Be thankful today for the uniqueness of your children. Think of one quality that you really treasure in each one. Find some way of pointing it out.
- Discuss a current event. Encourage your kids to take an interest in the world around them.
- Ask each child what they want to be when they grow up. If they’re already grown and out of the house, call and ask how things are going. Show your interest in their lives.
- Does your family pray together? Do something simple to begin or deepen your family prayer life—pray a psalm; say the rosary; invite everyone to express needs, and present them to the Lord together.
- Do something to get to know your children’s friends. Encourage them to choose friends who will be a positive influence.
- Do something special for a neighbor or friend, and get the kids involved. Help them see that God wants us to look out for the needs of people beyond our family circle.
- Do some family outdoor activity—something that allows you to enjoy God’s creation. Talk about how the natural world reveals God’s goodness and beauty.
- Recall your children’s baptisms and talk about what baptism means.
- Help your children with their homework, but resist the urge to do it for them. Prompt them with ideas, then let them run with it.
- Make family mealtimes a priority. If you’re running into obstacles, have a family meeting to brainstorm for solutions.
- Encourage curiosity about how things work. Too many of us parents have no idea how a computer works, how a car runs, or how it is that we can flip a switch and see the lights go on in our homes.
- With your spouse, look ahead to see whether a family vacation is possible this year. Even a few leisurely days together can make memories that last a lifetime.
- Attend your children’s sporting events. Recognize good performances of other kids and cheer for them, too.
- Read a chapter from the Bible every day, and help your children to do the same. If they’re younger, read them a Bible story.
- What is the virtue of patriotism, and how can you instill it in your children? Give it some thought today.
- Make regular appointments to speak to your children’s teachers, even if things seem to be going well. Be involved in their learning.
- Teach your children to greet adults with a firm handshake and a friendly smile. Encourage them to be outgoing, even if you are not.
- Think of a joke or funny story your kids would enjoy. Share it at the dinner table.
- Pay attention to your children’s friends when they come over. Do they need an encouraging word?
- Watch a family-oriented TV show or movie together tonight.
- After church, discuss the readings or the homily. Help your children come away with at least one positive point.
- Talk with your kids about what you do for a living and why you chose that occupation.
- Play a computer video game with your children. You may be amazed at their hand-eye coordination!
- Encourage your kids to get a good education and find a career that can support them, but don’t stress money as the be-all and end-all of life. Let them know that real success and happiness come from trusting Jesus and living for him.
- Review your children’s upcoming school events and project deadlines. It’s no fun to get caught by surprise.
- Go out with your spouse and choose your own “ten-minute parent” ideas to write on next month’s calendar.
- Teach your children to be hard workers and to contribute to the family. Give them age-appropriate chores, and show them how to do them properly.
- Take your kids out for a small treat.
- Tell your spouse and children that you love them. Find ways to say it in actions, as well as words.
- Pray for each of your children, that they would choose to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Dave Fitzsimmons and his wife, Erin, tested these ideas during the years in which they were raising their four sons.