As a busy Mom of three kids under the age of six, I am going to just be real with you…some days are tough! Just when you think you have this whole raising kids thing nailed down, something shifts and you feel like the carpet has been pulled out from underneath you!
Looking back to when I was a Mom of just one, the “terrible twos” were actually not so terrible. My son threw tantrums and fought nap times like most other toddlers do, but with some quick and easy positive parenting solutions…we were able to keep power struggles to a minimum and live in relative peace.
Fast-forward two additional children, and I found myself in a constant battle with my children over every single thing. Power struggles and meltdowns occurred multiple times a day (including my own), and I found myself counting the hours, minutes and seconds until bed time every day.
I started reflecting on what had changed…none of the tools in my positive parenting toolbox seemed to be working anymore and finally it dawned on me! With managing a busy household, extracurricular activities, work, and all of the other responsibilities on my plate…I had stopped spending 1:1 time with each of my children!
All Misbehavior Serves a Purpose
All behavior is goal oriented.
Children have a high need for belonging and significance, and they quickly learn that using their “listening ears” means they receive positive attention. It isn’t difficult to see that the goal of their positive behavior is positive attention, a feeling of significance, and ultimately love.
Believe it or not, misbehavior is also goal oriented, but the goal may not be what you think.
When your toddler throws a tantrum in public, your preschooler empties the entire box of tissue while you are making dinner (oh you thought you were the only one?), or your child develops a streak of aggression and starts hitting his siblings…their behavior has a goal AND it isn’t to annoy you, disrespect you, or get back at you.
The REAL reason that your child is misbehaving almost always stems from two underlying needs…a need for power/control and a need for attention (notice I said need, not desire).
Children Need Attention
Human beings are mind, body, and spirit, and we have real needs to nourish in each of these areas. It can be easy to think about our physical needs such as water, food, sleep, and so forth. But we require more than this in order to survive.
Humans are relational beings, and we have relational needs. Think about babies in orphanages who are never picked up or held…many of these babies develop failure to thrive and their bodies literally start shutting down physically.
From birth, children need to know that they are valuable, capable, and cherished. When children receive positive attention in the form of smiles, eye contact, loving facial expressions, caring physical touch, kind words, and meaningful time spent together, their emotional needs for love and affection are being met.
A child’s self-image is built upon the loving, caring messages he/she receives from the positive relationships in their early life.
Feeling loved and cared for also helps a child develop confidence and security, minimizing a great deal of the anxiety and fears that many children face.
Why 1:1 Time Works
When you provide your child with your uninterrupted, undivided attention to get down on their level and spend time in an activity that they choose, you are filling your child’s emotional love tank.
Children who have a full love tank have their need for attention filled.
This doesn’t mean that your child will suddenly become an angel who never misbehaves; it simply means that the drive behind their behavior won’t be stemming from a need for attention.
Examples of attention seeking behaviors include whining, clinging, sibling rivalry, power struggles, “deliberate misbehavior,” destructive behavior…are you getting the picture here?
Many of the battles you are facing throughout the day with your children are stemming from their need for attention.
I know, I know…the question you are wondering right now is “if my child just wants me to get down and play with them, then why don’t they ask me instead of doing X, Y or Z behavior?” If they could, they would!
A misbehaving child is also a very discouraged child. Children don’t WANT to misbehave, but they’ve learned by observing other children or from their own experiences that this type of behavior gets them attention.
I am NOT saying to ignore your child when they are misbehaving in order to teach them that this is the wrong way to get attention. This type of parenting will only reinforce your child’s need for attention and increase the very behavior you are trying to minimize.
Instead, focus on responding in positive ways, connecting to your child’s heart.
How To Do 1:1 Time
1:1 time with your child is when you are down on their level, playing with them or engaging with them in an activity of their choice for a set amount of time.
This is a time when they don’t have to compete for your attention, listen to you lecturing them, or be interrupted by your constantly dinging phone.
Whether you are a stay-at-home Mom, a parent working outside the home, or share custody of your child…1:1 time is not something parents are very good at. Sure, we may be around our child, cooking dinner in the room next to them while they are playing, or scrolling through our instragram feed while they are chatting away about some new discovery they’ve made.
Or, maybe like me you have made time to get down and play with your kids, but oftentimes your physical presence is masked by your emotional unavailability. I am 100% guilty of “playing” while my mind drifts off to my never ending to do list or replaying a previous conversation in my head.
As best as you can, train yourself to be emotionally available to your child during this special time with them. Bonding over legos and barbies now will set the stage for your tween or teen to open up to you about drugs, sex, and other hot topics down the road.
1:1 time should be scheduled into your day with each child for a set amount of time. Even the busiest parents can each find 10 minutes a day for this special time. You wouldn’t get too busy or forget to feed your child, and in the same way we need to nourish our children emotionally.
1:1 time is important from the youngest of infants all the way through the teen years. With a baby, you likely will rock, sing to, and cuddle them (probably for a lot longer than ten minutes) and with teens you may paint their nails, shoot hoops, or play a video game together. (For 100 ways to connect with your child during 1:1 time, click here.
One final tip for 1:1 time…let your child choose the activity. This is not a time for doing homework, teaching your child a skill they are lacking (unless they want this, such as learning to ride a two wheeler), or performing a chore together.
All of those things are wonderful to do with your child and also have their place, but this is a time when your child gets to call the shots. By giving them the power and control over what you will do together, they will have less of a need to fight for their power and control in negative ways.
As you fill your child’s love and attention basket and your emotional connection with them increases, you will find your child’s cooperation and willingness to listen also increases.
Don’t believe me? Try it for one week! The results will shock you!!!
Be sure to grab this 100 ways to connect with your child printable to get started connecting today.
Have you tried this? Did it work for you? Leave me a comment below and let me know!