Since June 2017, I have been excited to write about Special Time. Every month I think of the connection that makes Special Time a perfect subject. Why? Because, it is ALWAYS a good time to increase the connection we have with our children.
Connection is truly the secret ingredient to having more joy in life and being a happy parent. It has been said it is the reason for the human experience. Dr. Markham says, Parenting is 80-90% about connection and maybe 10-20% coaching.
Connection Creates Cooperation. Honestly, it the only road to gaining cooperation from our kids. It really is what makes parenting peacefully possible.
The analogy of maintaining a car to explain the benefits of Preventative Maintenance has been used by Dr. Markham. I’m sharing it, because I think most of us can relate. If we drive and drive and never check our oil, or top off the fluids, check the tire pressure, or take our car in for routine maintenance, we are likely to find ourselves in the breakdown lane with a flat tire or worse. We might have even driven our car into the ground. However, if we do take our car in for regular servicing, we might not ever see a red light on our dashboard. Even if we do, it will probably be a warning and not the engine blowing up with smoke billowing out, leaving us stranded on the side of the road.
It is not a surprise that our relationships with our children also run more smoothly with preventative maintenance. Children need us consistently, which means a balance of quantity and quality. However, it is all too common to spend most of the week apart from our children, while they are in preschool, daycare, school and we are at work.
If you are thinking, Not me. I am with my children full-time - it is Special Time all the time. Stop and think about your day. I bet you are also trying to do a million other things like laundry, meals, paying bills, classes, grocery shopping – the lists are endless. A weekend can quickly go by filled with playdates, screen time, sporting events and no real down time relaxing and connecting with each other. Before we know it, we have a tantrumming toddler in the middle of a store, an uncooperative school age child or a teenager that we never see anymore.
Okay, already – what’s the easiest way to increase and maintain Connection?!
What is Special Time? Special Time is one on one, unstructured, child-led play.
One parent with one child at a time. Unstructured means, no screens, no reading books, no games, no baking, no lego kits – or anything that comes with directions to follow (fun things to do together - but not Special Time). The parent follows the child’s lead and resists any urge to direct the play in any way.
What is so special about Special Time? It gives our child the gift of us and our undivided attention for 10-20 minutes a day. It fills their cup. It lets them know they are important and a priority. This increases connection. A child’s play is their work. Special Time gives us a window into their world, so we can see what it is they are working on and going through emotionally, developmentally and socially. All that in 10-20 minutes. Pretty remarkable, really.
The benefits go both ways. When we have a deep connection to our children, it is easier to stay regulated and see the world from their perspective. Both of which allow more joy and playfulness in our daily life – and that means less struggle and frustration!
The How to’s of Special Time:
Turn off your phone and close your computer
Announce that you want to have Special (Child’s Name Here) Time.
Set a timer with your child – a minimum of 10 minutes (20 is ideal)
Ask what they want to do
Give them 100% of your attention and follow their lead
End when the buzzer blows
Make time to Welcome Emotions
Do this as often as Possible – Daily is Amazing
When? A really nice time of day is after everyone gets home, before dinner gets started. You can decide if it can happen before homework. You might find that everything goes smoothly and you need less time for homework and making dinner, when everyone is feeling connected.
Delight in our children is the best gift we can give them. It is a gift that will last a life-time. When children are deeply connected and know we enjoy being with them, they feel worthy of love, they love themselves and can then love others. When they are connected - they might even be more likely to give up on what they want, to do what you want. Now that’s Cooperation!
My next post will be a Special Time part 2. What to do when the stars do not align perfectly for Special Time.