Being a parent means life is busy, and finding the time to schedule quality time with your child can be difficult. But when we haven’t had enough quality time with our children, we often notice a change in the relationship. Behaviours can slip. Planning a day out or something special can help to reconnect and move forward again more positively, but there is a way to incorporate quality parent-child time into our everyday routines.
The 20-minute tool is a concept whereby parents spend 20 minutes each day consistently with their child, fully present. The child takes the lead, and the parent engages in what the child decides they would like to do; such as playing dolls, Lego, chatting, kicking ball, etc. The important aspect is that the child takes the lead, and the parent will not direct the play in any way. The parent listens, takes direction, and does nothing if the child wishes for them to just sit and watch.
Parents must stay fully present to the child during these 20 minutes. This means that you don’t answer the phone, check the oven, or start thinking about what task is next on your list. You clearly let the child know you have this special 20 minutes that you want to give to them. You engage fully for those 20 minutes. Then, you thank your child for the time, and reassure them that tomorrow you will look forward to it again.
For some parents, especially those with more than one child and limited time, the challenge can be how to have 20 minutes with your child. Parents can be creative about this. Ideally, 20 minutes each day, one-to-one with each child works the best; but if you have to rotate children every other day, that’s OK; but you can never skip a scheduled day. Think about how a child would feel if their special time was cancelled. Some parents may do an extra length of time a couple of times a week. Maybe Saturday morning works well?
The purpose of the 20-minute tool is that it allows parents and children to connect, to get to know each other better. It supports parents to have time to see into their child; to allow opportunities through their play, and what they enjoy - to get to know them. The 20-minute tool enables parents to engage with how their child is feeling and how they manage feelings; to learn more about how they think, and what they are thinking about. It lets parents hear what children have to say.
Many parents will say that they spend all day with their child. They’ll say they don’t need to introduce the 20-minute tool. However - although of course some parents do care for children all day - this does not necessarily mean that they are engaging fully with the children, because they are also busy with a list of chores. Often, in a way, children are at the bottom of the list - not intentionally; it’s just that we hope they will go and play, so we can get on with the jobs that need to be done.
What are the benefits? Introducing the 20-minute tool, telling your child about this special time you are going to have with them each day, and doing it consistently will really support your child’s self esteem along with their confidence and emotional development. There is also evidence that it increases language development and, most importantly, it will improve the quality of the parent-child relationship. When this relationship is working well and children feel supported, recognised, important and considered; they will be more likely to cooperate in the home and within the family. There are less likely to be behavioural challenges.
Why not start using the 20-minute tool in your home? Sit down with your child and plan; talk about what it would mean to them if you were to do this. Try it out for one month, then look at how it affects your relationship with your child. And, hopefully, this will be the motivation to keep going.
For further reading on this topic, you might like to check out Margot Sunderland, British Child Psychologist.
Parent Mentor