Early one morning, my seven-year-old daughter began to be aggressive with her younger brother. She insisted that he play with her—and on her terms. He did his best to tell her no, but he wasn’t getting through.
The situation was escalating quickly. I decided to invite my daughter for five minutes of Special Time, as I could see that she was not thinking well.
We went into her room, and she very quickly came at me with scratches, bites, head-butts, pushes, and spitting. Something was really up for her.
We started to wrestle, I parried her initiatives with affection, and towards the end of the five minutes my daughter bumped her head on the wall. Then she began to cry.
When the timer bell chimed, she very sadly got up and went to sit in a chair. She reminded me that it was her brother’s turn for Special Time.
I told her that I would stay with her since she seemed so sad. She half-heartedly told me to go.
I stayed, and tried to gently and playfully get close for a hug.
When Upsets Turn Out To Be About Something Completely Different
After a little bit, she apologized for being mean to her brother, and told me that it was hard when others didn’t want to play with her in the way that she wanted. I nodded and listened. She then opened up and said that sometimes she’s felt betrayed by other kids.
She was referring to a friendship she was having trouble with at school. I listened some more and stayed close.
When the moment passed, and we went back to our plans for the day, my daughter and son were on good terms again. The five minutes of Special Time at a tough moment helped my little girl access and connect to something that was really hard for her.
How Emergency Special Time Worked
Of course, we must keep our children safe from one another when tensions arise. This mom saw that her oldest couldn’t play cooperatively with her younger brother and needed help. She offered her daughter Special Time, hoping that this would reconnect them and put her daughter back on track.
Her daughter’s aggression in Special Time confirmed that she needed a safe space to dump her upset, whatever it was about. Mom got right in and played hard physically, a powerful tool in building closeness. A small bump during the connecting play was just what this young girl needed to cry and to heal from the hurts that were driving her aggressive behaviors.
When Special Time was over, her daughter was still sad, so Mom continued to stay close. Connected after Special Time and feeling lighter after Staylistening, this girl was able to apologize for her behavior towards her brother, and also open up about the struggle she was facing at school. Had Mom not stepped in early, the sibling conflict probably would have ended quite differently.
This excerpt is one of 100 real-life stories that show how Hand in Hand's five tools are used by parents and is taken from the book Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges.