A few months ago, a young mother asked if I could tell if she and her baby had a secure attachment. She was concerned because her baby smiles for his nanny and baby-sitters, but not for her. "Why is that?" I asked, already guessing the answer. She explained that she and her husband not only worked full time, but both were enrolled full time in college. I asked if she really thought she could bond and be attached with her baby without spending lots of time together. She shook her head. We talked bluntly about choices, priorities and decisions she was facing.

When I was a child and teen in the '50s and '60s, everyone's goal was the American dream: owning a house, having a good job and abundant opportunities. Back then, it was feasible to achieve with only one parent working.

Today, dual-earning parents -- some who barely bring home the essentials and others who lust for more stuff -- are in the same bind: not enough time. Our economy has created a parenting conundrum. Who is the biggest loser? The family, our most cherished entity.

The signs of a crack in the family armor are apparent everywhere: Thousands of preschoolers need anti-depressant medications; gangs roam the streets of our largest cities; almost 2 million of our young people are incarcerated in prisons or jails; and our country has one of the worst rankings of all industrialized countries for infant and childhood mortality.

Time spent with your children is the most precious gift you can offer them. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children and teens need lots of attention and love if parents want an optimal outcome for their children.

Thanks to the parents and grandparents who shared a kid tip for this week's column.

No major regrets: One of my goals in life is to have no major regrets about my job as a parent. I think about this occasionally, and it helps me stay focused on what is really important. On my deathbed I don't want to think or say, "I wish I had ..." or "I need to ..." -- K.S.D., Pittsburgh

Blast off to bed: When I baby-sit young children who don't want to go to bed, we play the "Blast Off" game. The "spaceship" launches at whatever time bedtime is. We make a checklist of all the things to do before blast off (brush teeth, put on pajamas, use the toilet, etc.). The kids even set a timer for the spaceship to launch. By the time we're ready for launch, the kids are so tired that they fall asleep shortly after getting into their spaceship (bed). -- Laura Gordillo, San Jose

Craft project to eat: When grandchildren visit, they enjoy making and eating bread-dough designs. I make the dough (you also can buy it premade), and then add some food color. My grandchildren form pieces of the dough into animal creatures, bird nests, flowers and all sorts of things. Before I bake their creations, I brush with butter and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top. These designs are not only fun to make, they taste great, too! -- M. Hudson, Ames, Iowa

Hold their hand: Please hold a toddler's or preschooler's hand when in public areas, crossing the street, etc. I have seen parents crossing a street with a barely toddling child straggling behind, unseen. Drivers often can't see small children. Holding their hand keeps them safe, and sends the important message that they are not the center of the universe -- someone bigger and presumably smarter than they are is in charge. -- Linda L., Orinda

You can draw on this wall: If your child loves to draw and prefers doing it on the walls, tack up a large sheet of butcher paper on an accessible wall to provide an acceptable drawing area. -- Peggy C., Cupertino

Tom McMahon is a syndicated columnist, college professor and author of the books "Kid Tips" and "Teen Tips." Visit his Web site at http://www.kidtips.com.

CALLING ALL TIPSTERS

Every parent has a favorite parenting tip. Send yours to tom@kidtips.com; fax/voice message to 925-461-6080 or write to KID TIPS, 300 W. 57th St., 15th floor, New York, NY 10019.