What's So Special About Special Time?

When I first introduce Special Time to parents, many of them will tell me: “All the time I spend with my child is special” or “I am always with them. We spend all of our days together.” My first response is this, “I was the most disconnected stay-at-home mom before I started doing Special Time”. Until I really began using it in the way Patty Wipfler from Hand in Hand Parenting explains how to use it, I didn’t realize how much my kids and really my husband and I need it.

Imagine this: you get up in the morning and say good morning to your kids, or maybe not. You look at your phone, get lost in your email for 10 minutes and stumble into the kitchen. You muddle your way through breakfast and hurry the kids along to dress, brush and make their beds. Then you hustle to make lunch, shove those lunches in bags and rush off to school. Sound familiar? I think many of us spend our mornings this way, just trying to get it all done. If we are lucky, we aren’t met with a meltdown or major resistance to each of the many morning chores. In my house we had several battles and lots of kids off task and acting out in the mornings. Nobody wanted to do anything we asked and brushing teeth was a major ordeal. You could say it was just because they were young and needed lots of extra “parenting”, and some of that could be true. But, I’ll tell you what, now that my kids get some connected time with my husband and I in the mornings, we have very few upsets and things run really smoothly. With just 15 minutes of Special Time after breakfast and before chores, the kids get dressed and brush their teeth with smiles on their faces. Our mornings are quite lovely. Do I have to get up 15 minutes early? YES! But those 15 minutes everyday keep all of us happy and connected. I would gladly get up an hour early if it meant happy mornings.

Special Time is different from just being around your child. It is also different from taking them to Disneyland or to the movies. Those are all great and fun things to do with your child, but they don’t allow the two of you to connect. The Special Time type of “play” is a way to get reconnected. It’s child driven, meaning they are in charge and get to choose the activities. We become the co-pilot, one who is eager to play and excited to engage. Special Time is also preventative; it helps them to better regulate their emotions moving forward. We can only be expected as parents to fully engage for a limited amount of time, so the play is timed. Patty Wipfler says 20 minutes a day. But if you can’t do 20 minutes, everything counts. We announce Special Time so the kids know we are paying attention. They know this time is for them. We won’t become distracted or leave the playtime all together. Children start to crave and ask for this time because it really fills up their love cup. What is even better is that this time actually fills our cup up, too. It creates strong bonds between you and your child. Many parents say once they begin Special Time many of their parenting struggles diminish dramatically. Sibling rivalry, defiance and a myriad of other parenting woes go to the wayside.