Letter From The CEO: April 2017

Apr 4, 2017, 15:46 PM by Chris Coker

Stuff Vs. Love

I had breakfast with a gentleman this morning to discuss if he would like to join our Board of Directors. We appear to be the kind of guys who prefer to get to know each other before we get to business, so we rambled on about a myriad of topics.

During our conversation, he said he has noticed that parents confuse “stuff” for love. By “stuff,” he means cars, toys, clothes, etc. Parents give their kids these material things, and then when they have problems, parents are surprised because they believe they gave their kids so much love.

Sure, you bought your teen a new car out of love, but it was a car you gave them — not love. 

His words struck me because when I recruit a volunteer for the Y, I ask them to help parent this organization. I ask them for their time, talent and treasure. I ask them for their time to attend meetings, their talent to advise us to make the best decisions possible, and their treasure in donations. Any one of these items are useful, but the combination of the three is where the true value is.

This is the same for parents. 

If we just give our kids stuff, all we share is the treasure. Instead, we have to guide them and show them how to be adults via our talent.

However, mostly they crave our time.

“Quality time” is nonsense. I am very blunt about that. “Quality over quantity” is a cliché that too many people hide behind. There is no such thing as quality time when it comes to good parenting.

Raw hours spent with your kid are what drives connection. In concert with that is the fine skill of ensuring those hours are not helicopter time or time in front of the TV. This is the balance our generation struggles with: How do we spend time without helicoptering or having parallel recreation? Children need to have interactional time with their families. They need to feel loved, supported, controlled, uplifted, corrected, nurtured and so much else.

There are other significant benefits to having a good relationship with your teens. Teens with good family relationships — relationships that include time spent with parents — have lower negative outcomes, including behavioral, academic and emotional problems.

Here is the one instance in which time spent with parents is detrimental to teens: when parents are stressed out. Your stress affects teens in a much bigger way than you want it to. A 2015 study has shown that stress in moms creates a tougher time for teens than for younger kids.

My point is this: Do not confuse yourself or your kids by giving them stuff and thinking they know you love them.

In reality, time with them is more important than anything else. How much time? That depends on you and your kids. It is more than just an hour or two on the weekends and less than picking them up at school and not leaving their side until you put them on the school bus the next morning.

Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, so talk about it and make a plan that takes life into account but errs on the side of the kids winning. 

Extremes in parenting are bad — helicoptering, stressed out parents, latchkey kids. So how do you parent on middle ground? What is the most balanced path to take?

Follow the path that works for you and your kids, and it will all work out fine in the long run.


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley