At the end of the day, our kids don’t want things. They want high-quality time. An hour of genuine engagement is worth more than five hours of empty presence. We make it a point to accompany our kids outside not only to play with them but also because we adults need a break from the screens, too.
I had the pleasure of interviewingMatthew Davis, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Reveal Mobile, a Raleigh-based company that helps customers connect online with audiences near their physical locations. He lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., with his wife and three children — including twins who were born while he was getting his MBA degree at NC State.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I spent the first 18 years in Marietta, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, experiencing a wonderful life for a kid. We occupied ourselves by playing down at the neighborhood creek, swimming, playing soccer and basketball. I began my entrepreneurial career at an early age, too. My mother taught me how to weave baskets, so I wove baskets and sold them to my parents’ friends. I also spent a lot of time involved in music, whether through piano, guitar or choir. Those three elements — playing outside, starting things and enjoying the arts — still play a huge role in my life today.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I landed here today through a blend of working for others and building things on my own. In college, I started a window- and pressure-cleaning business with a fraternity brother. I eventually bought him out, then sold the business a few years later. That sale contributed to a key purchase: an engagement ring and the start of a new chapter. I did a three-year stint selling mortgages before landing a job with ChannelAdvisor, where I had a 10-year career as a software sales executive. As I began to burn out on that career path, I decided to make a few major life changes all at once. First, I signed up for a three-year executive MBA at North Carolina State’s Poole College of Management while still keeping the full-time job. Second, we decided as a family, which now included a three year old and one year old boy/girl twins, to move to a new home. Finally, I decided to quit my job and start a new business, foregoing a steady paycheck. I don’t recommend this approach. That startup did everything right except make money. When we finally flamed out, I convinced a mentor to hire me to run marketing for his company. I’ve been with him for six years now and still trying to figure out how to be a good marketer.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I curse under my breath each workday at 6 a.m. when the alarm goes off. After I shake that, my wife and I proceed to jam frozen waffles down our kids throats while hoping they can get dressed, cleaned and brushed by 7a.m. for the hike to the bus stop. I then head into work, arriving around 7:30 a.m., assuming I haven’t thrown the bike on the car for an early morning mountain bike ride. I do what everybody does at work: stuff. Lots and lots of work stuff. I leave the office typically at 5, then sit in traffic for an hour while trying to learn something new on a podcast or enjoying satellite radio. The early evening hours are family time, which consists of dinner together, watching a show, playing outside and enjoying a cold beverage. Grown-up bedtime isn’t too far past kid bedtime, but it allows us to sneak in an episode of the latest binge de jour.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
I spend time with my kids for a few reasons. First, I enjoy it, except when they’re being total jerks. Second, I want to impart the things I love and value in life onto them. This doesn’t happen overnight, but through a lifetime of interaction. Finally, kids can be total animals and it’s a parent’s job to “raise them right” so that they learn how to behave and play nice with others.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?
Children have been known to be jerks to one another. Then again, so have adults. Teaching a child how to handle and process someone being unkind is one of a parent’s toughest challenges. At the pool one summer, a group of kids was being jerky to one of my kids, and it crushed his soul for the day. My wife and I were able to address our child in the moment and call his attention to his own feelings — and turn it back around to the “golden rule.” Did he like being treated like that? Of course not. Would he ever want to make other people feel like he’s feeling now? No, at least I hope not.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
My wife and I make a conscious effort to routinely have “dates” with each individual child. These “Daddy-Son” or “Daddy-Daughter” dates involve spending a few hours, or in some cases, an entire weekend with just one child. It can be something as simple as going out for ice cream, attending a UNC basketball game, an afternoon hike, or going on a full-blown mountain biking getaway weekend. Our oldest child is now 11 and has been able to accompany me and my gang of mountain biking friends to western NC. We love it because he not only gets quality time with me but also gets to hang with the guys and experience our camaraderie.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
- For us, bonding happens in the kitchen. We make it a safe zone, where true feelings are shared.
- We eat our meals together as a family, as often as we can. It keeps communication flowing.
- We don’t allow anyone to use a smartphone at the table, although we do occasionally belt out instructions to Alexa to play some tunes. Placing limits help set boundaries and increase focus.
- Fresh air and playing outside is just plain good for everyone. We do our best, despite the protests from the kids, to shut down the “screen time” and open the front door.
- At the end of the day, our kids don’t want things. They want high-quality time. An hour of genuine engagement is worth more than five hours of empty presence. We make it a point to accompany our kids outside not only to play with them but also because we adults need a break from the screens, too.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I don’t think I’ve ever met a parent that thinks they’re getting parenting 100 percent right. If I could get it right all the time, here’s what I would do:
- Patience, within reason — having children showed me what little patience I actually have. I’ve had to learn to be more patient, but also not let patience turn into being a pushover.
- Let them be silly, but know when to shut it down. We’ve found that silliness can quickly escalate into terrible behavior, like punching a sibling or saying something hurtful. While we encourage silly, we pay attention to the signs.
- Praise the positive before the negative — when you’re running out of patience (see the first bullet point), it’s easy to view a situation and react impulsively. It’s much harder, but much more valuable, to step back, take a breath and highlight the good before addressing the bad.
- Teach them to own their mistakes — kids love blaming other people and each other for their misfortunes. I’m open to suggestions on how to get our children to take responsibility and apologize, instead of arguing about who hit whom with the dirty socks.
- Encourage them to try new things — we don’t care if you like that crazy looking vegetable, but we are thrilled and praise our kids when they at least try it. A fun example was during a sampling of hot banana peppers from our backyard garden. After I had a bite and nearly fainted from the heat, the boys wanted to try it knowing they’d be totally scorched. Of course, I let them take a bite, and 15 minutes later, and after the crying and milk chugging had ceased, we all had a great laugh. Is it a coincidence that they love hot sauce now?
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
We don’t really fill our kids’ heads with big dreams or big ambitions. Instead we just try to get them to try new things and then be totally okay if they fall apart. A kid that can learn to try something, fail miserably, and not be fazed by that can go on to accomplish anything. We do preach that they can do anything as long as they commit the time to learning how to master it.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
This is simple to say but really hard to do: Success is being happy with what you have while still maintaining a drive and ambition to do and learn more.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
What makes me a better parent is NOT consuming that type of content. I believe that when you live and breathe “children,” being a better parent means first focusing on yourself. Only by doing a few things for me, and fulfilling some aspects of my personal life, can I truly devote myself to my kids and my family. That way I don’t feel like I’m short-changing myself in life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My parents used to subscribe to “Reader’s Digest.” In one issue, an author mentioned that you can have three big things in your life, and you should say “No” to the rest. Family? That’s one. Career? That’s two. The third may be a hobby, a social life, or a side project. Any more than that, and life can quickly get out of balance. There have been times in my professional career where I’ve taken on four or five major things, dismissing my own advice, and I’ve suffered as result. I try to say “No” more often, but this is also easier said than done.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I hereby propose the “National Day of Trying Something You’ve Never Done Before.” Nothing humbles a person and opens their eyes to other points of view like doing something that you have absolutely zero experience doing already.
About the Author:
Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.
An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.
Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.
When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.