It was worth bringing an expert halfway round the world to speak on the subject so perhaps it is worth noting here that spending time with your children is more important than giving them the chance to become a musical prodigy or an Olympic medallist.

“Simple quality time” is what Ottawa psychology professor Catherine Lee was talking about at a parenting conference in Brisbane last week.

“Sometimes they might just want to play Lego with you, or throw a ball around or do something silly and that can be just as important, if not more important, as the lessons and the clubs and the activity.

“If we don’t have the basics, like enough sleep, if they’re not spending time on those simple meals together, then I think we’re missing something.

“We know what kids need. Kids need one-on-one with parents and they also need down-time, they need unstructured time and they need to be able to deal with boredom.

“If you ask kids to think about a happy Christmas, they usually won’t think about what they were given at that Christmas, it will be what they were doing and it’s the time that is the important thing.”

Isn’t it great that academics are rediscovering the basics of a happy family life?

Prof Lee also highlighted the changing role of fathers — from breadwinners and soccer mates to parents more intimately involved with their children. She says mums should leave dads to work out their style for themselves. And she believes researchers need to keep an eye on this development.

Well, it can’t do any harm and the results might even be quite interesting. We can certainly do with more recognition of the role of fathers and more insights into what children miss out on when they are not there.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet