Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “October 3, 2011”

15 Minutes A Day

It was a rare weekday opportunity that I was able to walk my eight-year-old to school. As we approached the entrance, he got very excited and pulled me over to a table. “You’ve gotta sign up,” he declared and I immediately wished his mother had taken him to school.

“Do you have 15 minutes a day for your son?” a woman asked,  far too chirpy for pre-1st cup of joe.

I was about to respond that I never have enough time for him (martyr, martyr, martyr) when I read … Did you know that spending just 15 minutes with your child 2-3 times a week can make a world of difference?

And then I made my biggest mistake – I looked down at my son’s expectant face. He is dying to spend 15 minutes a day with me one-on-one, especially because he gets a free ice cream at the end of each month.

Proud father moment - our first serious bike trip at Lake Siskiyou this summer

Okay, enough of the cynicism. I’m very proud of the Berkeley Unified School District. I’m very proud that the good taxpayers of Berkeley sign off every year not to cut funding to education, and most of all, I’m very proud of our incredibly committed teachers.

And hey, if theses teachers can spend several hours a day with my kids, then I can find 15 minutes, no?  What is interesting about this is that the child decides how that time is spent and they make the rules.

What does this do? Studies show that spending regular quality time with your child will give them: higher self-esteem, desire to cooperate, compassion for others, and a better focus for learning.

It might seem a little strange that we need to make a campaign out of something so basic. After all, as a parent, you would think that most of us actually wanted the little buggers in the first place. But the reality in such an intense 21st century lifestyle is that we fail to do this. For my part, I usually offer to spend time with my youngest by offering a specific activity – soccer in the car park, reading on my bed etc. Even when it comes to TV, I realize that there is a menu attached with a couple of his programs that I don’t go crazy watching.

So maybe we can create a better world by teaching the next generation the values that our generation failed to understand. And if 15 minutes a day is what will do it, I pledge.

A day earlier this year in the snow.

Finally, a shout out to the San Francisco Foundation and the Witkin Foundation for sponsoring this initiative.

“15 minutes, because kids spell “love” … T-I-M-E.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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