Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

What's So Special About 'Special Time'?

Part 1: Special time will change your child’s behavior.

"I give my kids plenty of attention. What's so special about special time?" –Emilee

Every parent I know who has started doing "special time" with his or her child has told me that they see significant changes in their child's behavior. Parents often say that their child seems to respond to it as if they've been missing an essential nutrient. In a way, they have.

Source: vystekimages/AdobeStock

Why? Because we live in a stressful culture that disconnects us from each other, from our feelings, and from our own inner wisdom. Special time is the antidote for parents and children, an essential nutrient that heals the upsets and disconnections of daily modern life. Specifically, special time:

  • Reconnects us with our child after the separations and struggles of the day, so she's happier and more cooperative.
  • Gives the child the essential—but unfortunately so often elusive—experience of the parent's full, attentive, loving presence.
  • Gives the child a regular opportunity to express scary feelings and ideas to a compassionate, trusted adult who will listen and help her work them through using her own natural language: play.
  • Gives the child a safe place to work through the everyday issues that all kids need to work through, such as feeling powerless, by reversing the roles and letting the child lead.
  • Deepens our empathy for our child so that we can stay more compassionate and see things from their point of view, which strengthens the connection and our parenting.
  • Builds a foundation of trust and partnership between parent and child, which is a precondition for them to trust us with their big feelings when they're upset (as opposed to lashing out), so improves the child's behavior.
  • Convinces the child on a primal level that she is central to the parent, that she really matters, that she is important. (You know she is, but children often wonder.)
  • Restores the parent's joy in parenting because the parent-child relationship becomes sweeter.

Think of special time as preventive maintenance to keep things on track in your family. And if you're having issues with your child, it's the first thing to change. Often, it's the only thing you need to change.

Clearly, every child benefits from special time with each parent on a regular basis. How often? At the risk of sounding like your dentist telling you to floss, every day would be ideal—but once a week is substantially better than never! Start where you can.

How do you do it? In my next post, I will share my top 10 tips.