Do you find that your angel children often act like devils when they start fighting with each other over what seems to you like the silliest things? In Siblings Without Rivalry, the authors discuss the roots of the constant tension often present between siblings: their need for individual connection to their parents and their desire to be known and seen for their uniqueness. When you sit and plan your week, one tool to start adding to your parenting toolkit is Special Time. It's designed to create and foster an intimate connection with each individual child. All you need is 15-30 minutes, at least 3 times per week. When you carve this time out, you simply tell your child "We're going to have some Special Time" and you explain that during Special Time, your child gets to do whatever he/she wants to do and that you will simply give all your attention and do whatever he/she wants you to do. This gives the child back the power he/she needs to feel confident and often loses throughout his/her day as a child living in an adult world. You put away any distractions - no phone, no computer, no cooking, no side conversation with the sibling or partner. You give ALL your loving, focused, undistracted, warm attention to your one child for this period of Special Time. Set a timer for the time you have (15-30 minutes). This helps the child know that Special Time is different from regular time and helps set clear expectations.
During Special Time, you let go of control or influence over this time and let your child lead the way. You watch with your full, focused love and warmth as your child starts a game, runs and wants you to chase, pulls out the dolls or trucks, sings, dances, jumps, and you see how he/she wants you to participate. You let go of control. You can have limits around how this time is spent. I do not allow screens or sugar during this time. And just enjoy taking in the beauty and awesomeness that is your unique child. And he/she feels this love and warmth and awe and takes it in fully. This practice fills the emotional and neurological needs of your child so fully that when you've been doing it regularly, you will notice changes in his/her cooperation and sense of ease throughout your days together. And if each child is receiving this Special Time regularly, you will see a decrease in sibling rivalry because their individual needs for connection and recognition will be met so fully! YES!
If you have certain times of day that are most challenging, try inserting some space for Special Time before those times (the morning routine, a meal, bath, bed, when sibling comes home from school, etc.). When the off track behaviors occur, that is your child's brain signaling a need for connection, which is well met and nourished using Special Time.
You can start using Special Time with children of any age. When they are babies or too young for verbal interaction, you can take a stance of observation instead of forced interaction or teaching. Let the child's curiosity and interest lead the way. When a child is older and "Special Time" is not a fun or cool enough name, let the kid name it. My daughter started calling it Birthday Time or Science Time and I've heard of teenagers calling it Hangout Time or perhaps it becomes centered around Baseball or Basketball or Nature. Let it evolve and let your child have control over it.
Enjoy this sacred time with your children and the amazing results and benefits that it brings!
If you would like to learn more about this and other useful, practical, neuroscientifically-based parenting practices, check out my 6 week Connected Parenting classes which are offered throughout the year from September- May in a call-in video format on Tuesday evenings from 8-10pm so parents do not need to find a sitter or leave their kids in order to learn practices which improve the whole parenting experience and family dynamic. You can find out more by visiting http://theconnectedfamily.net/services/connected-parenting-6-week-class/.