Usually I do about ten minutes of special time with my three year-old son a couple of times a week. Although ten minutes of special time always seems like such a short amount of time to do special time with a child, when I’m actually doing it with my son, I find myself waiting eagerly for the timer to sound. Recently I decided to try thirty minutes.
For his special time, my son decided that he wanted to have a snack, so I set the timer in the kitchen and we sat down at the table together to eat peanut butter crackers. In the past, my son has thrown food when he is angry. But during this special time, he seemed quite happy, and at one point decided it would be fun to throw a cracker on the floor.
He looked at me to get my approval. I gave him the go- ahead and as he threw the cracker up in the air, I put a cloth napkin over my head and shrieked, “Yikes! It’s raining peanut butter crackers!” This got him to laugh and he proceeded to take another cracker carefully out of the bowl and throw it in the air. Again, I put a cloth napkin up—a pretend umbrella—and said, “Wow! It’s raining peanut butter crackers!”
I kept looking at the timer I had set on the stove. I couldn’t believe that the first time I decided to do 30 minutes of special time with him, he chose to throw crackers around the kitchen! He continued to throw his crackers one-by-one, slowly and methodically, and giggling with each throw. I continued to put up the pretend umbrella and we had a big laugh after each toss.
Then, about 25 minutes into the session he looked across the table and saw a bowl of potstickers that had been left on the table from earlier in the evening. He looked at me, his eyes grew big, and with pure excitement he said, “Raining potskickers!?” I imagined greasy potskickers smeared across the kitchen floor and I hoped more than anything that the timer would sound. It didn’t. So I looked at him and said, “Sorry, we can’t throw the potstickers on the floor.” Surprisingly he didn’t seem bothered by this. He decided to eat them instead (I think he really was hungry) and we talked for a few minutes more until the timer went off.
At the end of special time I gave him a big hug and decided to sweep up the peanut butter crackers before we got ready for bed. He wanted to help. We had a lovely time sweeping together and eventually we got ready for bed. He put on his pajamas, brushed his teeth, listened to the stories I read, and turned out the light without a fuss or complaint.
The next morning he woke up and said with a big smile on his face, “Mommy, remember it was raining peanut butter crackers?” When we went to my mother’s house the next evening, he told her about the night it was raining crackers.
It felt great to be able to do a longer session of special time with him and to have just enough attention to let him throw his crackers around the room. Maybe one day it will be potstickers.
You can connect with Certified Instructor Julie Johnson in her next online Building Emotional Understanding parenting class.