Like most of us, you probably feel it’s a daily challenge to find the time to connect with your child. We know how important one-on-one time is but at the end of the day we realize that all we’ve done is move our children through the schedule. Get up, dressed, to school, home, activities, homework, dinner, bedtime.
What if I told you that you could completely strengthen and transform your relationship with your child in only 15 minutes a day? You can! Special Time is a peaceful parenting tool that is a super-charged way to connect with your child.
Our children NEED to feel that we see them, that we understand them, and that they matter. Our attention is a vital need like food, water and sleep. When they feel connected to us, they WANT to be more cooperative. Our strong relationship with them is ultimately the most powerful way we can influence them. (video version of this post here)
And of course, we are all busy with jobs, the house, our other children, modern life. How do we find the time to make sure they are getting what they need from us? Special Time*!
Not only does Special Time give them the attention they need while building connection and strengthening our relationship with them, it can be the ‘fix’ we need when things are feeling difficult or if our child has been acting out a lot. Parents that I coach say they can’t believe how much the simple addition of Special Time improves their child’s behaviour and transforms their relationship!
What is Special Time? It is 10-20 minutes a day of 1×1 time with your child, no distractions, immersed in their world of play.
It is as my daughter says, “How you know they love you.”
Special Time is unstructured. It’s not baking, or reading books, or playing board games.
Special Time is child-led. Your child chooses what to play. Lego, dollies, imaginary superheroes or Paw Patrol. (Want my free Special Time guide? Get the free download!)
No screens during Special Time!
Call it by your child’s name– “Maya Time” or “Mama and Davey Time”
Be present. Put away your phone, file away the to-do list. Really try to focus on your child and pour all your love and attention into them.
Set a timer. It can be hard for us to play for for very long without getting distracted. Our play muscles are rusty. You can do anything for 15 minutes.
Delight in your child! Your child needs to feel your adoration.
Be prepared for big feelings, when Special Time ends or after. Having an ‘end’ to Special Time is also useful for your child as an opportunity to have a scheduled meltdown and let out the tears that have built up over the day or over time. You can give them all your empathy- “I know! I love Special Time too. It’s so hard when it’s over. We’ll do it again soon.” And hopefully your child can cry. It’s also common that sometimes children will have a meltdown or ‘pick a fight’ with you after Special Time because they now feel safer and more connected to you and all those stored up old big feelings start to come out.
Try to get your child laughing– especially if you don’t have time for both Special Time and roughhousing. If you know me and peaceful parenting, you know another peaceful parenting tool is daily laughter and roughhousing. Laughter really helps your child process stored up emotions and makes you feel closer to each other. (Want some roughhousing ideas? Check out my free guide!) Your child might choose something physical with you, but if they don’t you could alternate turns.
Put Special Time on your to-do list for every day! If you try for every day but only get it 3 or 4 times a week, that is great. But if you try for 3 or 4 times a week you might only get it once or twice.
Let’s talk some logistics: If you have 2 parents and 2 kids, you can do Special Time for 15 minutes a day and alternate kids. If you have 30 minutes? Each parent gets each kid for 15 minutes.
If you have small children who won’t leave you alone while you are doing Special Time with the other, and no help to entertain them- maybe it’s better to do all kids together roughhousing and try for Special Time when you can do it without interruption. Special Time is GREAT for reducing sibling rivalry (in fact I prescribe it in my Stop Sibling Fights free e-book) but it defeats the purpose if a sibling is always interrupting.
Try Special Time today and let me know how it goes. You can post in my Peaceful Parenting Facebook group or leave a comment here. I know you will be pleasantly surprised at what a great return this small change brings.
*Special Time was pioneered by Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand Parenting and further popularized by my mentor Dr. Laura Markham.
Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 12, 15, and 18). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Find her at sarahrosensweet.com