My first month of my parenting challenge is dedicated to connecting with my little boy, so I am focusing on this and I’m trying to find different ways to build a strong connection with him. One of the best parenting tools I discovered some time ago is special time. Spending some special time with kids on a regular basis offers them the chance to enjoy our presence and to feel listened and connected with us.
A special time means spending 10-20 minutes with the child and doing whatever he wants to do with that time. The only rule for the parent is to give the child his full attention and love. This time is mainly about connecting with the kid and showing him the positive attitude you’d like to see from him for the rest of the day. Playing and laughing together will create that special connection between parent and child and this will create the opportunity to build a strong relationship that prevents negative behaviors.
I noticed that it’s useful to use the special time when the child needs it the most, namely when he feels the most disconnected. In our case these moments were:
Now that I became a stay-at-home mom these moments changed a little bit and I noticed he needs special times:
Another great idea is to spend special time for easing some challenging situations:
Using these times helps me prevent meltdowns and tantrums. Each time I miss the right moment when I feel he is disconnected, he engages in some negative behavior because this is his way of showing he needs my attention. In these special times, I focus my entire attention on him without any distractions (phone, TV, laptop) and I do exactly want he wants. Sometimes he wants to play something together, other times he wants to run with me all over the house and so on.
The most wonderful thing about spending special time with kids is that you see the good effects very quickly. When a child feels connected and loved he will be more willing to listen to his parents and to cooperate during the daily tasks.
When I was a working mom with a full-time job it was sometimes difficult to balance the work with my personal life and the time I wanted to spend with my family. Sometimes I was so tired that I really wasn’t in the mood for playing and having a special time with my son. But I realized that special time is really healing both of us and it’s giving us the opportunity to know each other better and to disconnect from the daily hustle. Once a child feels disconnected from the parents he will engage in a lot of negative behaviors and the whole relationship with him will be affected. Spending some time with him every day prevents this from happening and most of all it gives him the chance to feel how loved and cherished he is.
When I had a full-time job I tried to plan the special times to be sure I have enough time to spend with Bogdan and give him my full attention. In the morning we woke up 10 minutes earlier to have time for cuddle and play. This made the whole morning routine go smoother and without (too many) complaints.
In the afternoon after coming back from work, I never planned anything in the first half an hour and I only focused on spending time with Bogdan. This special time really helped us to have calmer evenings in the family. Before sleep time I always planned another 15 minutes of cuddling and playing in the bed to make sure we both go to sleep happy. This easy thing really made the process of putting him to sleep much easier.
This way for only 3 rounds of 10-15 minutes a day I managed to have a strong and loving relationship with my son even when I had a really busy schedule. This doesn’t mean that I only spent those moments with my son. We made a lot of other activities together along the day, but the special time is different because it focuses only on the child and it’s dedicated to building that strong emotional connection that every child needs to have.
Older children probably have a lot of ideas for the special time, but small kids sometimes don’t know how to express what they want to do. In this case, it’s better if the parent has a list of ideas and the child can choose one of them. The list of ideas is also useful when you start to have special time with your child and he doesn’t have a lot of inspiration for proposing activities.
Here is my list of ideas for spending special time with kids:
(this is especially useful when the child has something on his mind and cannot express it with words; playing is a great way of allowing children to express their worries and fears)
(for example playing with flour; this play is useful when the child has difficulties with dealing with rules and limits and he feels the need to “break the rules”; making a lot of mess is a great way of helping him to eliminate some of the frustration)
(they are fun and help the child to drain his energy; it’s also useful when parents have “power struggles” with the child because it helps him eliminate some of the frustration) or “wrestling” on the bed (a nice alternative to the pillow fight)
(this is a game we invented and we love to play; each of us tries to give the other one a lot of hugs and kisses while running through the house)
(a great way to connect and have some fun)
If the child wants to pick the activity on his own (and this is the best alternative), you can find here a great article on this subject: A guide to letting your child rule.
I hope that our experience with the special time will be helpful for you. I really think that spending special time with kids is one of the most powerful parenting tools we could use to build a wonderful relationship with our children and it’s really easy to implement it in the daily schedule.