Child playing with blocks

Special time is playtime that parents intentionally invest in their child, and it is totally command free. This includes the following: on the floor with toys/games, etc.-not TV/videos. Parents are not allowed to give their child any commands or suggestions. If you say, “Let’s play army,” you just blew it. The adult should follow the child in every aspect of play. A parent in command-free time is like an announcer at a horse race: You’re involved in the moment together with your child. You’re watching, describing, being with, but you’re giving no commands and offering no suggestions. None. Give undivided attention and completely focus on the child.

The child should have a daily playtime (on the floor with toys/games, etc. – NOT TV/Videos) with parents (separately). This one-on-one time should be chid-led in that the adult should follow the child’s lead in play. The adult can facilitate her play but should not make this a “teaching” time. This time should be exclusively for the child to engage one-on-one emotionally with her parents where she has their undivided attention and they completely focus on her (not thinking about work, etc.). The only goal of this playtime is pleasurable interaction for parent and child. The child is completely in charge (house rules remain intact) and the adult follows the child’s lead in every aspect of play. This is the one time when the child is the exclusive decision maker.

In our counseling practice we have seen phenomenal results from special time. But this kind of relating can be difficult for parents who may not be used to connecting with their children during playtime. And what makes it even more difficult for parents is that they have to refrain from asking intrusive questions or giving commands. Let your child take the lead, and follow him. He or she is the exclusive decision maker. If he should become excessively disruptive during special time, simply stop playing and return later. Do not tolerate unacceptable behavior.

It is very important to name this specific type of playtime, so that the parents and child can refer to it by name and mark it as a special time. This creates a sense that this special playtime is “different” than other parent/child time.