Shocking, isn’t it… Unfortunately, these are the numbers given by more than one professional (Brene Brown – Author of ‘Power of Vulnerability’, and Melbourne Therapist, ‘Joane Goulding’ to name a but a few). Yesterday i read a powerful and thought-provoking article (Positive Parenting Connection) which looks at the way that children respond to the various methods that parents choose to discipline them. It talks about the damaging effects that ‘shaming’ a child can have, and the lasting impact that these actions can have on a child’s psyche.
Even the most loving parent is probably guilty of it to some degree, often without realising the harm we’re doing. ‘Shaming’ our kids often sneaks in under the guise of ‘reprimanding’ them, or trying to make sure that they ‘learn a lesson’. We might think we’re being ‘gentle’ about it, or ‘doing it for the right reasons’, but in the end, we’re still causing our child pain.
Of course, as parents, there’s nothing we love more in this world than our kids. But life is tough, and many parents suffer from exhaustion, loneliness, and feelings of worry and anxiety. We want the best for our children, we want them to be the best they can be, and we want them to feel loved and cherished, but sometimes finding a balance is difficult. There are bills that need to be paid, meals that need to be cooked, diapers that need to changed, laundry that needs to done and so on (and on, and on, and on…) – never mind the most important job of all – caring for our children. Busy, busy, busy! It’s no wonder that in all the chaos, us parents sometimes lose our ‘joy’.
Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons so many children grow up thinking that their parents didn’t love or accept them. They see our exhaustion and general ‘lack of interest’ (due to lack of energy) as a lack of interest in them, because they’re not worth it. When we don’t put effort into spending time with our children, they feel under-appreciated, and un-important. But there are things that we can do to stop our children from feeling that way. The simple act of ‘being happy’ around our kids, taking delight in them and the little things they do, makes them feel deeply appreciated and accepted for who they are.
As nice as it would be to spend the whole day, every day just delighting in our kids – we know that’s not realistic. There are a million and one things that need to get done, and if your child’s anything like mine ( the 12 year old at least) she’s got a million other ‘better things to do than spending time with her parents 😉 ! There is something you can do though… it’s actually an age old concept, but i’m sure you know it too, it’s the oldies that always work… I’m talking about ‘Special Time’!
Special Time is a time for parents and children to reconnect. It reconnects parents and children after the separations and struggles of everyday life, giving the child the essential experience of the parent’s full attention and loving, carefree presence. Special time is basically a time for parents to focus on the child, and do a specific activity that the child wants to do. Special time can be spent playing, talking, drawing or just snuggling – it depends on what your child needs at that particular time.
There are many benefits to Special Time. These are the biggest, as far as i’m concerned 🙂
- Strengthening of the parent-child relationship – Special Time with your child creates a safe space for your child to be himself… one where he knows that you are going to pay attention to him, laugh with him, delight in him. This helps build a foundation of trust. Your child knows that you love him, and that you are there for him.
- Supporting your child through a stressful situation – We tend to forget that children can have tremendously stressful lives too. Situations like starting school, moving to a new neighborhood and having to make new friends, or the birth of a sibling can be incredibly stressful for a child. Special Time gives your child a safe place to talk about, or express through play, their emotions. This is so important – even for children, bottling things up inside only causes problem.
- Proving to your child that they are important – As adults, our lives are often hectic, rushed and chaotic. It is easy for a child to feel lost in all of that. Dedicating some time regularly to ONLY THEM makes them feel very special. We of course know that they are, but it’s nice to show it to them that actually matter!
- Special Time gives us, as parents, an opportunity to get to know our children – Our kids often spend a lot of time at nursery school, or school, with friends, or doing their own thing at home. In the same way, parents work, and have other responsibilities that detract from the time available to spend just ‘getting to know’ our kids… Special Time is that opportunity.
Special Time is unbelievably powerful, and anyone can do it. Even the busiest of parents can fit Special Time into their lives. So, how often, i hear you ask? Well… let’s be honest… ‘every day’ would be great, but not everyone can manage that! Let’s just say say, you should aim to get 10 to 15 minutes of Special Time with your child on a regular basis, as often as you can 🙂 . Doing this will bring about big changes in your relationship with your child. Your child will become more confident, more trusting and will start to feel like an integral part of your life, as opposed to just another chore, or part of the busy schedule. In turn you’ll get to know your child as a whole new person – you’ll get to see things from their perspective, and explore their little world. This will help you to feel closer to your child, and make those Special Times even more special!
Here are some tips for special Time
1. Make it official and give it a name – Announce that you want to have Special Time with each child, individually, and then do something a little different to make it special. Name ‘Special Time’ after each child – ‘Kayla Time’ or ‘Sara Time’ for example. You could even set a little time aside (some craft time apart from Special Time) and make a special ‘Sara Time’ crown or a ‘Kayla Time’ bracelet (i don’t know about you, but there’s no way i’m getting my 12 year old to wear a ‘Special time’ crown 🙂 lol! ).
2. Let your child know that during Special Time you’re going to be doing WHATEVER they want – (Yes, i know, it sounds scary… relax… you can do it. 🙂 ) So much of your child’s life is spent being told where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Giving him the power, even just for a few minutes, allows your child to uncover and explore sides of himself that he might not otherwise get to develop.
3. Give your child a ‘heads-up’ – Let your child know ahead of time when you’re going to have Special Time. This way your child has time to plan how they’d like to spend their Special Time. You could make Special Time a fixed daily or weekly thing, and add it onto a physical schedule or you could tell your child, “We’ll be having Special Time after lunch.” or , “Special Time’s on Saturday morning.”. Make sure that there is someone to watch any other children, unless they’re old enough to entertain themselves without getting into too much mischief… (we all know what happens when a 3 year old ‘entertains’ himself for half an hour unsupervised, right… ).
4. Set a timer and Turn off your phone – For the duration of Special Time, nothing, and no-one else should matter. It is only 10 or 15 minutes, and those 10 or 15 minutes should be 100% distraction free. Playing until the timer goes off is very important – one of the most important parts of Special Time is that your child is in charge. If you say when Special Time is over, you take some of that power away from your child. By having a timer announce when time is up, your child still feels like Special Time is within his control. Be warned, your child will might still not like Special Time coming to an end. That’s also okay… Stick to the timer, but give him all your love and attention in his moment of anger too. If your child is having a full blown melt-down, say something like, “It’s hard to stop our Special Time, i know. It’s okay to cry. I’m right here.”
5. Don’t structure Special Time – Special Time should be about free-spirited, impulsive activities. The rest of our children’s lives are structured enough don’t you think? Building a pillow fort, catching frogs in the garden, putting makeup on Mommy… all great Special Time activities… Baking, arts and crafts and reading… best saved for another time!
6. There are going to be emotions – If your child is enjoying herself, great! If you’re hearing laughter, wonderful! But be aware that your child’s emotions may flare and bubble up, especially towards the end of Special Time. Your child has been having such a great time, getting closer to you, feeling loved, and worthy and safe, that she’s more likely to share any feelings she’s been carrying around with her.
7. Budget in an optional 5 minutes of Cool Down or Pillow Time – Your child might need some time to talk through emotions, or to work through a little ‘meltdown’, especially if Special Time is still new. Don’t worry, it will get better. For the time being, be strong, give your child a cuddle, and take a (quiet) deep breathe. When the tears pass, your child will feel better, and so much closer to you.
Now, you may be wondering how this all ties in with what i mentioned at the beginning about that article i read on shaming your kids… Well, don’t worry, i do have a point here! 🙂 The other day, i wrote a post called ‘Dear Terrible Teacher’… about an argument my daughter had with one of her teachers. I don’t think i was harsh, and i definitely didn’t write it with the intention of ‘shaming’ my daughter. However, after reading Ariadne’s Post on Shaming post, i decided to delete mine (yip – even though it was my most ‘popular’, or is that ‘controversial’, post to date, you can no longer find it on the site). I have since come up with a new strategy, and an extra reason to give Special Time a go…
If my kids make a big mistake, or do something that i’m not real impressed with – we set aside Special Talk Time. My little one’s still a little young to understand the concept, but i’m going to make sure i introduce this at a pace that she can understand. Special Talk Time is going to be a safe space for my kids to talk to me freely, to express their feelings, using whatever terms they need to, so that what needs to be said can be said. I want my children to know that i love them.
I want my children to know that i accept them for who they are. I want my children to be in that 20 percent.
Please, take some time to set up some Special Time with your child… and if you have an older child, consider doing Special Talk Time too.