One thing parents need most is margin. What's margin? Glad you asked. On this page as I type, I've got a certain amount of margin top and bottom, left and right. It's the blank space around the edge of my paper. If your margin is too small, you don't have room to add any personal, handwritten notes. Your day is like this document. Life fills up your page, and sometimes it takes up all the room on your paper.
Applied to parenting, margin is the time necessary to do those things beyond the absolute minimum. Of course you absolutely must feed, bathe, clothe, and watch over your children. Somehow, you make time to provide these physical necessities. But that's not all that children need. They need your strategic training, your listening ears, your loving touch, and your disciplining hand. For these heart-level necessities, parents need margin -- enough time in the day to perform them, and perform them well.
In our fast-paced world we often make our margins way too narrow by filling every minute with appointments, excursions, school extras, play dates, tutoring and a dozen other commitments. And it only gets worse as your children get older and they have their own agendas to stack on top of yours. Suffice to say there are many culprits that will steal your margin. One of the most insidious is television.
This may not apply to you, but to many, the television is a constant source of noise and light. It can give much, but it can also take much from you if you don't limit it. Researchers at the University of Iowa found that keeping the television on in the background is harmful to children:
"Parents, turn off the television when your children are with you. And when you do let them watch, make sure the programs stimulate their interest in learning.
The researchers found that background television -- when the TV is on in a room where a child is doing something other than watching -- can divert a child's attention from play and learning. It also found that non-educational programs can negatively affect children's cognitive development."
Keep the television off unless there's a particular program you want or need to watch. You can waste a day, a weekend, or a life watching too much television. Instead of considering all that you might miss on screen, consider all that you might experience by reading a good book to your kids, playing a board game, developing a hobby, discussing the day's events, doing homework on time, building something together, or enjoying a sport. These have vastly more potential for sharing life together than simply watching television, even if you watch it together.
Don't let unproductive things steal the margin in your life. Your child needs you to preserve your margin, keeping it wide enough to write those personal notes in them. The personal notes are the ones that touch the heart, you know.