It is one of several Hand in Hand Parenting Listening Tools, which used together provide effective ways to build your relationship with your children, and deal with challenges.
Each Listening Tool has it’s place, but Special Time is the foundation – building the closeness and connection you need for things to go well.
- Builds Understanding: In Special Time we allow the child to be in charge of what happens and how it happens. This allows the child to show their interests, preoccupations, struggles and concerns. With this comes a rare kind of one-on-one closeness and emotional safety that boosts children’s confidence and sense of connection.
- Builds children’s emotional awareness: They will begin to notice when they feel alone and ask for Special Time rather than use “off track” behaviour to show how they feel.
- Gives children a break: It’s not easy being young. Children spend many hours a day in situations where they are not able to control what is happening, are not asked what they think or consulted, and are often treated as if they are not fully able to think, simply because they have less experience than adults. The renewed sense of connection that comes from Special Time, and the chance to “get out from under” are sometimes all that is needed in order to restore peace and co-operation.
- Helps you to feel better about your parenting: It can be hard to prioritise your children. Special Time offers permission to give our children regular, undivided attention. quarantined from the usual pressures of life (no multitasking allowed!). You can put your head on the pillow at night knowing you really did what, in your heart of hearts, you always hoped to do: love and enjoy your children, fully and unconditionally.
- Provides an Insurance Policy: Special Time builds “credit” in the relationship that helps get through the hard times. Special Time must not be conditional on good behaviour. It works best if done regularly at a time that works for the family. It is beneficial whether it lasts 5 minutes or 30.
- Pressure Relief Valve: Offering Special Time can be very effective in resolving power struggles and other tensions. Often, after a short Special Time, a child will be able to do easily what was previously a struggle.
- The Reset Switch: Special Time gives us a chance to put our relationship with our child back on track when things have gone wrong, we have made a mistake, or we don’t know what to do. You don’t need to refer to the difficulty, or you might like to apologise – but offering Special Time is a great way to make peace.
How to do Special Time?
- Set aside a short time (5 minutes to an hour, or however long you can last!).
- Each of our children longs for special, undivided time with us and will thrive if we offer it.
- There are other Listening Tools we can use when there are several children.
- No interruptions – no cups of tea, no visitors, don’t answer the phone.
- When you are free of fatigue and worries.
- Put the timer on:
- So you know you won’t have to last forever.
- So your child knows you will treat it as “special” and out of the ordinary.
- Tell your child it is Special Time (this is really important).and you will do whatever they want for this time.
- Don’t make Special Time conditional on your child behaving well.
- More often than not, doing Special Time will actually assist things to go well if they have been a bit difficult.
- Focus completely on your child: notice everything about him or her.
- Be completely pleased with them – show how much you enjoy, approve, delight. Use a warm tone of voice.
- Follow your child’s lead – put them in charge.
- Be less knowledgeable, less competent, more foolish – Playlistening – helpless enough to be non-threatening, active enough to be interesting.
- Notice the laughter & try to keep it going, but don’t tickle. Tickling takes control of the play away from the child; there are many other creative ways to get children laughing.
- Do not redirect, instruct, correct, “teach”.
- Expect new things to happen. This is a chance for you to learn things about your child. Don’t assume you know what will happen this time. It might be the same as last time, but it might not!
- Safety and limits – set them warmly and playfully. The adult is the safety manager. In Special Time, don’t expect children to remember what/who needs to be kept safe. If something goes wrong, take responsibility. Do your best to prevent the difficulty happening, but if you can’t, don’t blame the child. It can help to apologise: some useful words are “I’m sorry I did not get there in time to stop that happening”.
- Do it regularly! Your child will plan for it, and will count on it happening. It will be a highlight of their week.
If you would like to know more about Special Time, I can highly recommend these short videos from Hand in Hand Parenting’s founder, Patty Wipfler. If you sign up for them, you will also receive Hand in Hand Parenting’s newsletter, which is full of good information, and which you can easily unsubscribe from. Sign Up Here.
Here are some stories of Special Time: