A Guide to Letting Your Child Rule…

…Or What’s So Special About Special Time?

Doesn’t it seem like children these days are just itching to gain power over you, all the time? If “Give me milk,” and “I want it now!” are fairly common in your home, you’ll know just what we mean.

Well at Hand in Hand, we say, “Hand it over grown up! Give the kids a chance at running the show.”

Have we lost all sense of reality? Not at all.

Ready to let her rule?

Let Your Children Rule!

We talk a lot about the concept of Special Time – that time set aside with a child, where a timer is set, all attention is focused on them and they get to choose exactly what the two of you will do. In fact, Special Time is a cornerstone strategy outlined in founder Patty Wipfler’s upcoming book Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges.

Special Time doesn’t exist to ‘let kids loose’ or wreak havoc in your life. Quite the opposite. Patty says that Special Time is a simple way to let your child absorb your love and attention and that the sense of safety it gives fosters co-operation. This eases the stresses they feel and allows them the safety to explore their fears and uncertainties.

Who could argue with these enthusiastic responses from parents that already love Special Time and the closeness it brings.

“I am absolutely amazed at the powerful effects that Special Time has on my relationship with my daughter, and also in helping her address things that are bothering her,” says one happy mom.

“I cannot praise the genius of Special Time enough! It’s clear that it makes a difference in my child’s life but what makes it equally rewarding is noticing it makes my life as a parent so much lighter and more fun,” says another, Lisa Orr.

Special Time is the moment where children, finally, can make the rules. You set a timer. You tell them its Special Time (or whatever you choose to call it – for more on this, read on.) You outline any safety rules. Then they are off.

Special Time timerThey lead Special Time and are totally in charge – which can take you anywhere from sparkly manicures to playing spray hose, right up until the timer you set goes “ping.”

Do not be tempted to make suggestions on what to do, and if they are slow to have ideas, just be with them while they chat and ponder or wander around.

Some children get imaginative. Each of Hand in Hand Instructor Abigail Wald’s children had her climb into a tub of ice water – with her clothes on – over two sessions of Special Time. “I shrieked in true horror as I did it, but when I got out they each sweetly wrapped me in a towel. Thank goodness for small favors,” she says.

Yet Special Time hardly ever looks so zany. Many children happily opt to have ten minutes to sit and color with their adult. Bike rides and ball games are requested. Card games, snuggles, and play in the ‘den’ under the table can all be Special Time. Sometimes it feels best to have mom sit and block build or dad braid a favorite doll’s hair, other times its bouncing for ten minutes on the trampoline.

Honor what he or she decides and the time. When Special Time is on phone calls, emails, the front door, the washing machine, or any other usual household distraction is set on hold while you two enjoy this golden moment.

Benefits of Letting your Children Take Charge

Children are rarely really listened to. Normally, it’s them begging for our attention or their turn. All day long they are told what to do, by parents, caregivers, teachers, and family members. After they have been listened to they tend be more cooperative when you do make requests and days run more smoothly. This is why the concept of Special Time can be so impactful for the whole family.

Benefits aren’t just for the children. Try Special Time for a week and see if you don’t feel some of these transformative effects:

  • A closer bond between you and your children.
  • A sense of relief and contentment
  • A greater sense of fun and playfulness
  • Greater ability to deal with any tantrums that do come up
  • Less guilt about the time you spend on other tasks 

When to Try Special Time

Parents have said that five minutes of Special Time when children wake up can make getting up, eating breakfast, and getting out the door all run smoother with less arguments and resistance. After school squabbles can be fixed with a few moments of Special Time, and a Special Time session before homework or nerve-inducing new experiences, from a class to meeting relatives, can help ease stress and upset.

How Long is Long Enough?

We hear you! Special Time can sound daunting. It can be hard to let go of your agenda, it can be hard to follow your little one, and yes, it can be hard to play. But even five minutes of Special Time, once or twice a week will be enough for you to feel the difference. From there, you’ll feel confident setting your timer for longer and longer sessions.

Set up Special Time

Ready to jump in and let your children have their moment? Here’s how to set up Special Time in 4 quick steps.

Name it: It can be “Paul’s Special Time,” “Paul’s Power Moment,” or simply “Special Time,” but do make the distinction so that they can take ownership.

Plan it: Announce that you’d like to spend some Special Time. Say when it will be – whether it’s later that day or coming up this weekend – and for how long it will run.

Enjoy it: Choose a time frame that isn’t stressful to you, set a timer and then let your sole focus be on your child and how he or she sees the world right now.

End it: When the timer rings, tell your child how much you enjoyed the time and set the limit to stop. It’s quite possible your child will demand more, but promise more soon and stick to the limit. As they become accustomed to Special Time, they’ll trust in it and look forward to the moment that they take charge.

And so will you – we promise!

Give Special Time a go and let us know how you like it. This site is filled with information on Special Time, including this free video series and cheat sheet to  get started with Special Time at your house.

You can also read our booklet on Special Time.


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