Community//

“Children are sponges”, by Dr. Ely Weinschneider and Mandy Hale

Children are sponges. They are absorbing everything they see and experience, which forms them into adults. As parents, spending time with adolescent children is not just entertaining for them; parents are playing critical roles in their development. When parents spend time with their children, they teach them how to care for and love others. Parents […]


Children are sponges. They are absorbing everything they see and experience, which forms them into adults. As parents, spending time with adolescent children is not just entertaining for them; parents are playing critical roles in their development. When parents spend time with their children, they teach them how to care for and love others. Parents teach them responsibility and instill values and morals into them. When parents share time with their children, they shape them into the people they will grow up to be. If parents do not spend time with their children, children can easily get lost. They will lack the confidence to make wise choices. They will fail to understand how to belong and how to accept others. Children who do not spend adequate time with their parents may harbor resentment towards their parents and act out for attention. Spending quality time with children is the best gift parents can give their children both for the present and the future.


As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Amanda Hale. Amanda “Mandy” Hale, RN, is vice president of nursing and leads nursing strategy at DaVita Kidney Care. Mandy holds an associate’s in nursing degree from Kishwaukee College in Malta, Illinois, and a bachelor of science in nursing and a master of science in nursing degree from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. Additionally, she earned her MBA from Lewis University. She recently completed her doctorate of nursing practice degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her family and participating in athletic events such as marathon running. Mandy resides in Northern Illinois with her two children.


Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

My sister and I were raised in a small town in Northern Illinois by our mom. Our mom was a nurse and we spent a lot of time at the hospital hanging out with our mother and her nurse friends. Growing up, I played sports and was very involved in my church’s youth group. I felt very fortunate to live two doors down from my grandparents and was able to spend a lot of time with them.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I followed in my mom’s footsteps and became a nurse. While I was in nursing school, I worked as a patient care technician (PCT) in dialysis. I stayed in the health care field after I graduated nursing school, and became a nurse manager less than two years after graduating. From there, I found myself continuously taking on new responsibilities. I enjoyed learning new things and meeting new people. It was important to me to continue to advance my formal education as well. I learned so much information that was applicable to my work while studying for school and vice versa. After steady progressive advancement in both, I ended up holding a doctorate degree in nursing practice and became the Vice President of Nursing for DaVita, where I plan the strategy for more than 18,000 nurses and 19,000 PCTs.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

My days really vary: I often travel to Denver for meetings, as DaVita’s headquarters is located there, spend time with my teammates in DaVita’s nation-wide dialysis facilities, or work from my home office. On a given day, I may be meeting with one of the many teams I partner with to design programs and initiatives for the nurses and PCTs, or by speaking directly to my colleagues to understand how I can improve their experience. I present at internal DaVita meetings and external conferences, so developing presentations is a daily event for me. I also spend time reading literature, regarding various nursing-related topics to learn more about the industry.

After my day-to-day duties at DaVita, I enjoy spending time in the kitchen with my children. That is where they do their homework while I prepare dinner or lunches for the next day. Despite the fact we are engaged with these activities, we still engage in fun and meaningful conversation. I also enjoy watching my kids in their sporting events. I often spend weekdays at volleyball games, basketball games or track meets and weekends at volleyball tournaments.

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?

Children are sponges. They are absorbing everything they see and experience, which forms them into adults. As parents, spending time with adolescent children is not just entertaining for them; parents are playing critical roles in their development. When parents spend time with their children, they teach them how to care for and love others. Parents teach them responsibility and instill values and morals into them. When parents share time with their children, they shape them into the people they will grow up to be. If parents do not spend time with their children, children can easily get lost. They will lack the confidence to make wise choices. They will fail to understand how to belong and how to accept others. Children who do not spend adequate time with their parents may harbor resentment towards their parents and act out for attention. Spending quality time with children is the best gift parents can give their children both for the present and the future.

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?

  1. I really enjoy spending time in the car with my children. Traveling to an orthodontist appointment or eye exam is something I look forward to, as I enjoy having a one-on-one conversation with them. 
  2. Another way we enjoy quality time together is by watching movies together at home. A while ago, we started a movie list. Anytime we are out and about and think of a movie we’d like to see, and add it to the movie list. We watch a variety of genres, including comedies, classics and tear-jerkers. 
  3. We enjoy spending time in the kitchen too. Mandy’s daughter, Payton, is 13 and loves to bake with me. My son, Parker, is 17. Although he doesn’t enjoy actually preparing food and baked goods, he will sit at the counter and talk to us while we get busy in the kitchen.
  4.  We also travels as much as they can, and have had some really fun trips to the beaches in Florida, visiting Broadway in New York City and tent camping.

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 a few strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

  1. As I’ve shared above, I take advantage of appointments and other car time I have with my kids.
  2.  We try to sneak in quality time in the mornings too. A few years ago, I started waking my kids up a little earlier than necessary. This allowed us to have more enjoyable mornings that included more quality conversations rather than having rushed and stressful mornings.
  3.  I love hugging my son before he drives away to school and dropping my daughter off in the mornings. Honestly, those hugs keep me going all day.
  4.  We’ve created habits that allow us to spend as much quality time together as possible. For example, on Sundays after church, we go out to brunch as a family. This has been integrated into every Sunday’s routine, so the time is already spoken for. 
  5. I also keep a meticulous calendar. This allows me to always know what is coming down the pipeline for the week and keeps me prepared. By keeping a well-organized calendar, we create time by avoiding unnecessary chaos. In addition to work and kids’ activities, I schedule my workouts and just about any other event I may have. That way, I run my day rather than having my day run my family. 
  6. Quality time can be short and sweet too. When I pass my kids in the hallway or one of them comes into the kitchen to grab a snack, these are great opportunities to grab them for a quick hug and to say “I love you.” I try to get in as many “I love you’s” as I can every day.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

A good parent is one who provides for their children’s holistic needs. Obviously the basics of food, clothing and shelter must be provided; however, good parents support their children emotionally and spiritually as well. They encourage their children to live their fullest lives. Good parents create an environment for their children that is special, safe and where children feel like they belong.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I inspire my children to dream big by contributing tangibly to their dreams. For example, my son wants to be a physician, I therefore took him to a three-day conference for high schoolers who want to become physicians. My daughter wishes to go to college on a volleyball scholarship, I therefore take her to practices during the week and attends her volleyball tournaments on the weekends. I also encourages them to study effectively or continue practicing anything they want to learn. I teach them that spending time and energy on their dreams is the way to accomplish them.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

To me, success is living authentically. I consider myself to be successful when I show up consistently at work, with my children, my friends and my extracurricular activities. I view this as successful because this means I have created a life that is true to my values and passions.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I have inspired to be a better parent through multiple resources. One which may sound very simple is Pinterest. I’ve found lists of summer activities to do with my kids, inspirational text messages to send them and a host of recipes we can make together. A quick search can yield many ideas for family-time activities. My church is a wonderful resource to remind meof patience and kindness, which are two significant attributes in parenting.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford and states, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” I hope I am being a good role model of this concept for my children. I’ve made big decisions for myself, such as running marathons and completing my doctorate. When I decide I am going to do something, there’s no turning back.

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 would love to inspire a movement to effectively teach middle school students how to be kind and accept others. Now that my two children have completed middle school, I’m convinced this is the critical time to teach intentional kindness. As a result of this movement, I would hope to inspire a culture where everyone takes just a bit more time to be a kinder to one another. To me, this is just as important as the curriculum that is currently covered in 6th through 8th grade.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!


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.

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