Remember the old phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”? It used to be that neighbors would try to “keep up” with each other by having similar or nicer houses and cars, and we’d proudly boast about our children getting accepted into a good school or making honor roll when we’d run into friends we haven’t seen in a long time. In today’s digital world, that “keeping up” culture is expounded tenfold as we are now able to monitor the every move of our friends and families – as well as millions of strangers – 24/7 via social media.

A busy family does not necessarily make a happy family

It is no longer as easy just to live our lives and fret the once-in-a-while comparison with the Joneses; we are now immersed in a daily assault of visual reminders of what we may already perceive to be our personal flaws and shortcomings – and the perception that a busy family makes a happy family.

One perusal of Pinterest and you understand why it helps fuel feelings of inadequacy if we opt to lie on the couch and read books on a rainy Saturday, when it seems the rest of the parental world is shuttling their children from soccer games to dance recitals to weekend science camp and then building backyard chicken coops before cooking gourmet meals from scratch for family dinners seven nights a week.

It’s a hard message for today’s modern family to remember but an important one: a busy family does not necessarily make a happy family.

It is not the more you do with your kids, but how you spend time with your kids – that’s what matters the most. In fact, over-scheduling children can actually do more harm than good. And, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, just 20 minutes a day of true quality time with your children can make a big difference.

Time to change your perspective of “quality time”

So if spending two hours every afternoon shuttling your kids between activities does NOT constitute “quality family time,” then what does?

It’s actually very simple: quality time is just being with your children and being fully present in the moment. That’s it.

It means turning off the phone when you read with your kids. It means going on a walk around the block and really listening to what each family member is saying. It means engaging in meaningful conversations with your children so they know their thoughts, feelings, and concerns are being heard – so they know that you, the parent, are the one they can trust to share their day’s triumphs and tribulations.

Parents must parent

In the end, parents must parent, and that means taking responsibility for finding those small slivers of time during your busy days to compensate for time apart to really be together.

For younger children: bedtime is a fantastic time to read together and build family bonds.

For tweens and teens: if you find after-school extra-curricular activities getting out of hand and/or conflicting with your family time, don’t be afraid to let your children know that they need to make some hard choices, and let go of one or more activities. Family comes first, and by letting them make the decision about which activity to cut loose, you are also letting them know just how important you value your time together.

So be the parent: when you set the priorities for your family, feel free to put blinders on to what the rest of the world is doing (or, at least, appears to be doing according to the internet). Focus on quality, not quantity, and you’ll find the opportunity to build strong familial bonds to last a lifetime.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.