One of my very favorite parenting pearls, special time. So what is special time? Special time is a favorite tool that has been taught for many, many years. It started out being called floor time, and it was the time when the therapist would sit on the floor with the child and just play. Sometimes it was called play therapy. It works out so well connected with the child that it is now taught to parents worldwide. When you first start with a “special time,” I’d like to give it whatever your child’s name is. It can be Andrew’s special time. Katie’s special time, you get the idea. But there are very specific guidelines that I want you to keep in mind when you do special time. And we’re going to review them here.
First of all, when you introduce special time to your child, make it a big deal, make it unique, make it something that you and he or she can look forward to a commitment, a promise from you to your child. Our time together, can be as simple and as short as 10 minutes a day. And however often you can do it or even weekly. Here are some guidelines. But before we go there, I know what you’re going to say. Oh, but I spend all my time with my child all day long.
Well, therein itself may be the problem. You do not need time for yourself and you can spend all your time with your child all day long. That is not healthy either for you or for your child. Special time needs to be presented in a frame to the child as something new, as a new special opportunity that he and she will share with you. The parent decides when the activity takes place.
For how long does it have to be? 10, 15 minutes. You can make it very short and you also decide how often you can do it once a week. You can do it once a day. If you have time to do it twice a day, get even better. The child is outside the activity. And here is the key. The child is in charge. The child is the captain. You’re the sailor. Your child is the chief. You’re an Indian. The child is the president. You are the vice president. The child is the leader. You, the parent, are the follower. Let your child know that he decides the activity. Obviously, within reason, parents are still in charge.
But the most important aspect is that the child is in charge during these ten, fifteen minutes of the things that I want to include here. No interruptions, please. This is one of the items that your child will appreciate the most. No phones, no TV, no videos, no siblings, nothing. Just you and your child. Now, here are some activities that what special time looks like. You’re on the floor, you’re playing with your child. Your child is dictating the pace and whatever the game is, I did include a pre-teen here, sometimes with the preteens in the teens. It is so hard to get them to engage. So at times, watching the video silently with them may be a way to connect.
And having said that, you may say, but this will go on all day long. But it’s not because guess what? You’re going to get a timer and this is how you make it work for the younger children. You can put the timer, you can set it off for ten, fifteen minutes. And when the timer goes off, you stop. Even if you have more time to spend with your child, you stop. You tell the child something like, you know, I had a great time today with special time, but now I need to go and do some other stuff. Let your child continue to play on their own. This teaches them delayed gratification. It teaches them how to share emotional control. This is what makes special time. So special.
Now, one last caveat with regards to special time, special time is not the place, or is that to be used as a reward for your child special time to be given to a child regardless of his behavior? Special time is not a time to review chores or to coerce your child into obeying or doing what needs to be done. It’s not a time for you to pepper your child with questions. So what happened at school? How did so-and-so treat? You know, none of that comes in special time. It’s also not a time to talk about your agenda what you would like to see happen or the plans for the next day. There will be time for that. And don’t reprimand your child for past behavior during special time.
Again, this is a time in which the child is in his own world and he has control over what’s happening. I think you have to do in special time, you’re going to be so pleasantly surprised, you and your child are going to be happier. I know. I guarantee you will enjoy it. So, again, no better way to connect with your child during special time.