Did it take your kiddo forever to get his pajamas on last night or did she flat out refuse to brush her hair in the morning? Or maybe he always puts up a fight when it’s bath time. Wouldn’t it be great to have a ten minute tool that can turn your child’s worst behaviors around?
Connection is vital to young people. When children feel disconnected, their behavior can easily go off the deep end. And if your child experienced an early trauma or difficult times when they were young, aggression, defiance, or withdrawal are often the way they ask for help.
If we want kids to be more cooperative and flexible, if we want to help them through tough times, we need to put in the time and attention to see things change.
But before you read on, if you missed what Special Time is and how to do it, read about the magic of Special Time here in part one.
Now, let’s look at some of the most challenging times for children. Because these are the times you want to start using Special Time strategically to see their behaviors shift. Whether it’s helping with morning meltdowns, dissolving a defiant attitude after school, healing homework headaches, or feeling close and connected before bed, Special Time will get you there.
1. Morning Routine:
Weekday mornings can be tough! It’s one of those times we have little patience for our child’s unruly behavior or defiance. So instead of hoping against hope that tomorrow morning you won’t fight over what’s for breakfast or the fact that your child won’t get dressed, set the alarm a little earlier than usual and make Special Time the first thing you do before the morning routine turns into a power struggle. For many parents, Special Time is their go-to tool in the morning to help send their child off in good spirits.
2. Reconnect after School or Daycare:
Have you ever been met with a punch or a kick instead of a warm hug after school? Lots of parents have! After a day of separation or even a longer time away from your little one, your kid might show you how much they’ve missed you–and it’s not always that sweet. Make Special Time a priority when you’ve come back together with your child at the end of the day or after some solo travel.
3. Make Homework Less Stressful:
Special Time is a powerful antidote to the daily grind of school that can be challenging for children. When it’s time to sit down to do homework, a flood of worries and stress can crop up for kids. So instead of demanding that your child start her homework before she has play time, do Special Time first. It brings a whole new lightness to the drudgery of school, saving you hours of math meltdowns.
4. Ease the Transition To Sleep:
Most parents think that quiet time before bed is the answer to a better night’s sleep. The problem is, fear and anxiety commonly creep in for an extended visit before bed time. While kids can be less cooperative and more feisty, parents are often at the end of their rope by 8pm. A little Special Time before the night time routine, can help with the refusal to brush teeth, the pleading for five more books, and even night terrors. Even if that means she wants you to have a pillow fight with her for ten minutes!
5. Change Challenging Behaviors:
You know your child best. Does bath time bubble over in a tantrum or is just the mention of the dentist a disaster? Special Time can be used before or after challenging times to ease a child’s fears or resistance. Playdates, a doctor’s appointment, sibling strife, fear of the ocean…whatever it is that your child needs extra support with, Special Time used strategically over a number of weeks, will help him through fears and difficult behaviors.
Clearly, Special Time alone won’t heal the whole hurt or eradicate a challenging behavior for good. But it’s a vital ingredient as we navigate the many challenges that our children face. Special Time coupled with Setting Limits and other tools will get your child out of a bad mood or stop a behavior that persists.
Here’s how it can work:
When my son was two and a half there were times when he would throw food at the table. We would respond with a frustrated, “Stop throwing!”, and “Pick up that piece of avocado!” But that never seemed to curb his desire to fling what he had in front of him.
Then one evening, I asked him if he wanted to do Special Time after dinner. I told him we could do whatever he wanted to do. He said he wanted to have a snack for Special Time, so I got out the peanut butter crackers he loved and sat down beside him at the table.
He happily ate a few and looked at me as he picked up another peanut butter cracker and asked if he could throw it. “Sure.” I said, and I watched him carefully toss his snack to the floor. A big smile came over his face as he looked at his crackers and looked at the floor.
I said yes to more cracker throwing as he methodically picked up each cracker—slowly, without anger or frustration—and threw them to the floor. I took a napkin from the table, put it over my head and cried “It’s raining peanut butter crackers!” And with each throw, he laughed more.
The giggles were growing as I continued to crow, “Eek, It’s raining crackers!”
When twenty minutes were up, the timer went off and he got up from the table, found the broom and helped me sweep up the crackers. He then got ready for bed without a complaint. Pajamas and brushing teeth were easy that night, unlike most, and he slept soundly in his bed.
The next morning he woke up in a great mood and smiled as he talked about peanut butter crackers flying through the air. But what was most remarkable is that he stopped throwing food at the table after that. No more mashed avocado deliberately dumped on the floor or chunks of bread strewn across the table.
Now he’s almost ten and Special Time looks different–no more flying crackers. These days we play football in the street or peruse through a bookstore.
Special Time will change as your children get older, but it’s something you can do with them for the rest of their lives.
Next time, you’ll find out how to do Special Time with teens.