A sense of connection bestows real powers on your child. It grants him the ability to think, to cooperate, to feel good about himself and the people around him. It opens up avenues to learning. And it helps him develop judgment over time.
- Want your child to be a good friend to others? Build his sense of connection.
- Want him to be brave? Nurture his sense of connection.
- Want him to be able to amuse himself part of the time? Plump up his sense of connection.
Special Time will help you to keep this bond of connection strong.
In Special Time, you set aside some time—from three minutes to an hour—and your child tells you the recipe for reaching him. You say when and where you’ll have time to connect. Your child tells you how.
Special Time can be occasional or even a daily practice, depending on your family.
Don’t I Do Enough Already?
You may be thinking, “But I already do a lot of special time with my kids! I take them to the park on weekends, let them splash and play in the bath, sing with them. They get to run around a lot more than I did. We have a lot of fun times together.”
You’re right! Those times are important. But those times won’t have the same effect as Special Time. You enjoy your children as they splash in the tub, but if the phone rings, you answer it. If your partner enters the bathroom to discuss the neighbor’s noisy music, you converse. All day long, many things can and do distract you.
In Special Time, you refuse to be distracted. You focus on just one child. You make arrangements for your other children, and the phone is off limits. In Special Time, unlike normal life, your child runs the show.
You do set the conditions: Special Time will be for fifteen minutes, we can go inside or outside, but no car today, and we won’t spend money.
The rest is up to your child, and you’ll see him become quite creative in directing things as the spotlight of your attention shines on him. You’ll discover what tickles his fancy each time. On a day when you haven’t got much patience, you can set up a short Special Time. On an easier day, you can be more generous.
There’s always a start and an end to Special Time: Your child looks forward to the start of it. Many parents look forward to the end! A commitment to a limited period of time will give you greater tolerance for the interesting things your child chooses to do. For instance, say that your child somehow gets into chewing up soda crackers in the back yard and blowing the dry crumbs out of his mouth to make snow. Though you’re a fastidious person, you can manage to chuckle and admire his originality. Wisely, you promised him just ten minutes, so you can almost enjoy seeing soda-cracker snow cover the grass. You pat yourself on the back—yes, he loves messes, but at least he’s creative! And for ten minutes, you can handle it. You could think of the majority of the time you spend with your child as the nourishing milk of parenting. Special Time is like the cream. It adds an important quality—emotional safety—to your relationship. But all cream would be too rich for both of you!
Special Time accustoms your child to feeling well connected. It also attunes you to your child, so after awhile you’ll anticipate difficult moments more often, and learn to plan for them.
You’ll know you’ve arrived as a parent when your child notices that he’s going off track and asks for Special Time so he can reconnect, instead of spiraling down into difficult behavior.This is a very simple tool. When you use it, you’ll be rewarded with improved behavior and greater trust.
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:
Read Day Three in our series, How to Set Limits in Three Easy Steps
Find out what you can accomplish with Special Time:
- How Does Special Time Make Children Content?
- Find our about Using Special Time To Explore Things That Are Normally Off Limits
- Use this checklist to make the most of Special Time
- This excerpt is taken from the book Listen: Five Simple Tools To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.