Parenting • Dec 19, 2017

Setting Up a Special Time with Your Child

When it comes to the relationship parents and kids, it takes 5 positive interactions to balance out every 1 negative interaction. If you think about this throughout your day, it means that we must make an effort to have significantly more positive interactions than negative just to keep things even.

Catching your child being good and praising him for appropriate behavior are ways to increase positive interaction. Setting up a daily (or several times a week if that is more feasible) “special time” is a powerful way to get the most bang for your buck.

Many parents make attempts to establish one-on-one time with their children; however, it’s often hard to squeeze this into busy family schedules. Also, it can be harder to navigate if you have more than one child and are trying to find individual time with each. Often, parents try to plan one-on-one time as a distinctive outing or event. While special outings are fun, they can be are hard to implement on a regular basis and can be pricey. The truth is, having a regular special time with your child can be done at home with no extra expense and still be just as unique.

Special time will look differently from child-to-child according to age and interests.  Below are some tips to consider for establishing some special time:

For younger children:

  1. Pick an open-ended activity to do together for 10-15 minutes a day (or every other day). This might include playing with figurines/dolls, Legos, coloring, or so on. Try to avoid board games, puzzles, video games, or any game with set rules.
  2. Describe, praise, and mimic your child’s play. The goal is to let your child lead the play. This means parents should think of themselves as a narrator to their child’s play. For some, it might help if you imagine that you are the sports announcer for your child’s play. Your child will realize that mom or dad is paying attention to them, noticing everything they’re doing, praising them, and even copying them. As a result, it is very reinforcing and contains many positive interactions in a short period of time.
  3. Avoid asking questions or giving commands. Oftentimes we direct children, even in play. This type of play is intentionally child-directed and the goal is to eliminate parent instructions for the duration of the play. Parents will likely catch themselves asking questions without meaning to. Simply return to describing, praising, and mimicking if you notice yourself directing your child.
  4. End special time play if your child engages in a negative behavior. If they behave aggressively or break a house rule during the play, then a natural consequence is to end Special Time early.

For adolescents:

  1. Join in on an activity that your child enjoys. This might involve sitting with them while they engage in a preferred activity or interest (e.g., video games, drawing, reading) and trying to connect with them by showing interest in what they are doing. Parents should try to be present and highlight their child’s positive behaviors.
  2. Pick a time each day that you will check in with your child and make yourself available to talk about anything they might want. The goal is for parents to have a regular time to talk with their children and practice being present and available for whatever their child may wish to discuss. Try to avoid asking them question and leave it up to your child to identify what they’d like to discuss. Perhaps they want to talk about the basketball game yesterday, their favorite TV show, drama with their friends, or something they’re learning about at school – anything goes. If your teen says they don’t have anything they want to discuss, then tell them that is fine and you’ll ask again tomorrow. This will help show your child that you are accessible, interested, and willing to listen.