By Robert Duncan
September 05, 2019
We face many demands on our time from family, work and other responsibilities. It can be challenging to balance competing priorities and find a parenting style to help your children be successful. I founded Transwestern in 1978 and worked hard to make it the prosperous commercial real estate enterprise it is today. During that time, I also had the pleasure of raising six sons with my wife, Marcy. Over the years, I’ve learned how to prioritize my time and focus on what’s important, both at home and at work.
While I’m not an expert, my experiences may be a useful parenting guide for others. Here are some suggestions on how to spend quality time with family:
- Play together. When kids are young, playing together can create treasured memories. My boys still talk about when we would play in the backyard. We would play until we were all exhausted and laughing our heads off. There are times to be serious, to teach, and to lead… and there are times to play, to laugh, and to have fun.
- Get involved in their hobbies. Sports were a big part of my sons’ youth. I got involved by coaching for 18 years – baseball, football, and sometimes basketball. It allowed me to spend time with our boys and teach them about much more than swinging a bat. Whatever your kids’ hobbies or interests are, be it sports, scouts, hunting, or anything else, I recommend getting engaged in some capacity. So many life lessons are learned during these types of activities. It’s crucial that parents are involved enough to influence that learning. And the bonding that takes place is immeasurable. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.
- Be the hangout house. Try to make your house the favorite venue for your kids and their friends. We did everything we could to make hanging out at our house desirable. This not only allowed us to keep an eye on our own kids, but we could make sure they were spending time with kids we thought were a good influence. For example, we were fortunate to have enough space to build a baseball diamond and batting cage in our backyard, giving them a convenient place to play sports and ensuring our house was the place to be.
- Find a common interest. Family time becomes much more valuable when you can find a hobby or activity that everyone enjoys. Ours is hunting and fishing. The whole family, Marcy included, goes to our hunting lease in South Texas regularly. Spending time outdoors has many benefits for children and can help them develop a love for being active and adventurous, but you may find a very different shared interest. The only thing that matters is that the whole family enjoys spending time together. We’ve made our shared interest in hunting and fishing a common theme in our family vacations, and we still talk about the experiences we’ve shared.
- Eat dinner together. We are very fortunate that five of our six sons live in the Houston area, which makes it much easier for us to get together for a family dinner regularly. We can usually pick out one night a week to have everyone over for dinner. It doesn’t always happen and not everyone can make it each week, but we try to have as many of them over as we can. Marcy is the cornerstone of our family values, and she cooks dinner almost every night. Unless we have a specific engagement, we always plan to have dinner at home together.
- Work together. This won’t work for every family, but it’s a wonderful experience if it fits your situation. Our sons have heard about Transwestern all their lives, and now, we’re extremely fortunate that four of them have chosen to work here with me. I’m thankful that Transwestern has grown enough so that each of them can pursue their specific interests within commercial real estate. I’m sure we wouldn’t be working together today if we had not bonded so close as a family over the years.
- Vacation together. Family vacations should be a forever thing. Work hard to find a time slot where everyone can be there – 100% attendance. As the years go by and the logistics get tougher, figure out how to do it, even if it means getting away for a shorter timeframe. Being a parent doesn’t stop when children move out of the house, so it’s equally important to continue being a parent to adult sons and daughters.
A goal in everyone’s life should be to build meaningful relationships with family members. It’s a constant struggle to balance the worlds of work and family, but I’ve outlined my priorities as my faith first, family second, and vocation third, followed by friends and community. If I feel like I’m appropriately managing my time, interests and potential within that priority system, then I think I’m succeeding.
My parenting guidance isn’t an exact playbook for everyone, of course, because each individual must identify their own priorities and define how to balance them successfully. It will look different for everyone, just as every family looks different.
Robert Duncan is the Founder and Chairman of Transwestern. He is actively involved in directing the three companies within the organization specializing in commercial real estate services, investment and development.
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