''Last Year when Patrick Ishizuka published a parenting study, he set off another round of discussion about what we call good parenting and who is able to do it,'' writes Perri Klass, M.D.

Rebecca Ryan, a professor of psychology at Georgetown, who was a co-author on one study, said that with children 3 to 5 years old, college-educated mothers on average spent 14 minutes a day in teaching activities, whereas mothers with a high school degree or less spent about five-minutes a day.

So the individual amounts are relatively small, but when you multiple those differences through the endless [or all-too-short] days of child rearing, they can be profound. 

TIME well spent in raising children : ''Whatever the myth of hyper parenting is, there is basically no parent who spends two hours a day reading or doing puzzle, Dr Kalil said.

''The average amount of time parents spend a day is between 20 and 30 minutes.''

And the biggest difference is between parents who don't do any of these developments stimulating activities and parents who do something , she said, which is why the focus of  parenting programs and interventions should be to get parents to put in some minutes - and hours - on a regular basis.

''What I believe is that what really matters is regular steady habits of modest investment,'' she said.

And yes, the parents in the zero minutes-a-day group are disproportionately low-income and less well-educated, though there are certainly plenty of low-income families where lots of reading and talking and involvement goes on.

For those at zero, ''to shift the needle on moving them closer to what middle-class or rich parents do does not mean asking them to read an hour a night,'' Dr. Kalil said. ''It means reducing the number of days when nothing happens.''
Dr. Kalil directs the Center for human potential and public policy, where she studies low-income families.
''We've interviewed thousands of low-income parents in Chicago,'' she said.

''They know reading is important, they have books in their house, but for a variety of reasons, because life in low-income circumstances is more stressful and more unpredictable, low-income families have a harder time following through on these aspirations.''

By working with txt message reminders, she said, parents can set goals for what they want to do with their children.

In another study, these behavioral tools more than doubled the amount of time parents spend engaging with their children.

But focusing on the gaps can feel like blaming the victim, Dr. Ryan said, if all parents seem to embrace the idea that engaging with their children is important, it's important to think about helping parents do what they all want to do, and think about what might get in their way. 

The honor and serving of the latest research, thinking and writing on Raising Children, continues.


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