Recently, I saw a funny meme about the multiple benefits of coconut oil. It said: "Frizzy hair? Coconut oil. No shaving cream? Coconut oil. Dry skin? Coconut oil. Bad credit? Coconut oil. Boyfriend acting up? Coconut oil."
When it comes to parenting, we have our own magical coconut oil. It's called: special time.
Child having multiple meltdowns a day? Special time. Child whining incessantly? Special time. Child repeatedly antagonizing his sibling? Special time. Jeans too tight? Special time. Don't know what to make for dinner? Special time.
Okay fine. Special time won't exactly get you into a smaller pair of jeans, but I'm convinced it's the antidote to most parenting-related issues.
What is special time and why is it important?
Special time is a daily scheduled and specified amount of uninterrupted one-on-one time with your child. During this moment, your child gets your complete, undivided attention for at least 15 minutes.
They are in charge—leading and directly the play. You are physically, emotionally and mentally present. No phone, computer, chores, television or daydreaming. Your child chooses the activity and you become immersed in their world.
In order to feel loved, children need us to feel and express joy when we're with them. They need to know that we take delight in spending time with them. Often when they're acting out, what they're really expressing is their need to be seen. Their unwanted behaviors are their way of getting our attention.
When I became intentional about special time, I realized that it's a lot more difficult than it sounds. Parents are busy and stressed. On any given day, we're juggling caring for our kids, making meals, doing laundry, cleaning up and working on our marriage. It's no wonder that it can be incredibly difficult to carve out one-on-one time with our kids.
Creating special time is doable. Here's how to create one-on-one time with your child:
1. Plan ahead.
Put Special time in your schedule just like you'd put a dentist appointment or soccer practice. It is just as important. Start by creating weekly special time and then advance to daily time if necessary.
2. Explain special time.
When you're putting your child to bed, tell them that tomorrow the two of you are going to have special time. Explain that after they get home from school the two of you are going to have 15 minutes (or longer, up to you) of special time when you will do whatever they want to do. Build it up. Tell them how excited you are and prompt them to start thinking about how they want to spend the time.
3. Set a timer.
The most important thing about special time is that your child is in charge. By using a timer, you relinquish your control of the time. When special time is over, it's because the timer went off, not because you determined that it was time to stop playing.
4. Let the fun begin.
Turn off all electronics, put your to-do lists aside and immerse yourself in your child's world. For many of us, playing in their world is the last thing we feel like doing. But, it's only 15 minutes. Just do it.
5. Channel your inner child.
Drop your judgments, reframe your negative thoughts and let yourself delight in your child's interests. Instead of learning and exploring with an end-goal in mind, try learning for the sake of learning.
6. Show genuine interest.
Again, this can be challenging and may require a bit of reframing on your part, but adopting a curious mindset can be helpful. Taking the opportunity to tune in to what interests your child and how they enjoy spending their free-play can be helpful in building a stronger connection. Showing genuine interest while our kids lead the play is one of the most powerful ways to convey our love for them.