Boy shows his mother something interesting on his mobile phone

Special Time: what will she tell me this time?

Special Time is such an extraordinary Tool.  It can feel like hard work to put the timer on, resist the temptation to say “No” to things that might ordinarily be off-limits, and follow our child’s preferences for a while.  But it can sometimes create the space a child needs in order to show us something they are troubled by, concerned about, or preoccupied with.

These things may not always be things they would choose, or be able, to talk to us directly about.  It’s the same way that our minds find exactly what we need to work on when we do a Listening Partnership.  The way that being Listened to without criticism or advice pulls up issues we did not realise, at the outset, we need to talk about. We surprise ourselves when we find a flood of tears to be shed where we least expected it.

You never can tell what a child might want to tell you, if you give them the opportunity.  And Special Time is one big opportunity.

So Special Time – where we follow our child’s lead, and refrain from offering criticism, suggestions or advice  – sometimes gives children space to tell us what is worrying them, and gives us information that we might not otherwise get. This is what one mother found when she resisted the temptation to say “no” to You Tube in Special Time.

When my daughter was about 6, we did some Special Time after she had spent the afternoon at her friend’s house.  She wanted to watch a music video clip on the computer.  I am not all that relaxed about the idea of screen time, but it was Special Time, so I agreed.

We watched the clip together and I could immediately see why she wanted to look at it with me.  It was slightly sexually suggestive (as many music clips are) and there were phrases and actions she did not really understand.  I did not say much – wanting to see what information, if any, she seemed to want from me.   She did not, in fact, want much.  I said something like “Gosh, that is a bit odd”, but not much more than that.  She just seemed to want me to watch the video with her.

It was as if there was something in it that did not make sense to her, and she needed to watch it again with the reassurance that my presence gave her.  We watched it through once, and then she wanted to turn off the computer and go jump on the bed. She never mentioned it again.

From this, I learned that at her friend’s house, they were probably watching some television that was not quite appropriate for her age. I was pleased to know this, and later I was able to talk to her friend’s mother about that. But I don’t think my daughter would have ever come up to me and said “Mum, we watched a music clip at my friend’s house that I didn’t understand and I’m worried about it.”

I’ve found that Special Time can give you a wealth of this kind of information – a child will tell you something about what has gone on in their day, or what is worrying or concerning them, by what they choose to do in Special Time.

A mother of 6 year old, in Australia

I try to remember this story when I feel tempted to put some boundary, rule or limit on what happens in Special Time, with my own or other people’s children.

You never can tell what a child might want to tell you, if you give them the opportunity.  And Special Time is one big opportunity.

The featured image on this page is Screen-time togetherness by ExpectGrain CC-BY-SA 2.0


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© 2020 by Madeleine Winter.