I must admit, I often find myself longing for alone time. I sometimes dream of the day my two toddlers will play together without begging for me to participate in each and every activity. When my mind starts to go there, I have to quickly snap myself out of that daydream. I must remind myself that my kids are not trying to prevent me from cleaning the house when they repeatedly call my name to join them in the playroom. They are not trying to deprive me of my five minutes of peace to sit on the couch and mindlessly look at my phone when they insist I color with them. There is really no mystery as to why my toddlers demand my attention. They are simply asking for just that, my attention. Positive attention. And if I don't give that to them, history proves that they will resort to other types of behaviors to get them any kind of attention. Even if that means settling for "frustrated mommy" attention.
Parents... it doesn't have to be this way.
To feel loved, all children need undivided positive attention from their parents each and every day. A minimum of 10-15 minutes to be exact. That's less time than it takes to scroll through your Netflix catalog for your next binge. Even so, you may find yourself needing to be intentional about finding this "extra time", especially during the work week. I know I do. Here's my approach to being intentional with my toddler time.
Let the little one decide...
You decide when: Try to have no agenda for these 10-15 minutes each day.
They decide what: Allow your child to decide how to spend their one-on-one time with you.
You show up: Your time together should be fun, free of judgement, and full of smiles. Be sure to be 100% in the moment with no distractions! That means no cooking dinner, no checking emails, no having side conversations with your spouse. This is your child's time with you!
Two parents? Twice the time?
If you are in a household with two parents, each parent should try to participate in one-on-one time with your child each day. This can be done together (I guess this would be "two-on-one" time) or separately. If both parents can't commit to the same time, your kiddo can have special time twice a day! Fun!
If you have multiple children, ideally each parent would have 10-15 minutes with each child each day. This can often be tricky, and, depending on how many children you have, unrealistic. With multiple children, dividing and conquering may be the way to go. If you divvy up time with the kids between both parents, be sure to rotate which parent spends time with each child throughout the week.
Should I have a routine?
Once you find a time of the day that works best with your schedule, try to be consistent and use that same time each day to spend with your child. Incorporating this into your routine makes it more likely that this will happen each day. It also allows your child to anticipate this positive attention, making him less likely to resort to searching for negative attention.
How do I do fit this into busy weekdays?
The time of day you choose to spend together will depend on your work schedule and may even vary from day-to-day. If your child is an early riser, early morning may be the perfect chance for you to sit on the floor and play toys together. Or maybe you have 15 minutes to play outside before eating dinner when you get home at the end of the day. If neither of those times work, plan on some after-dinner quality time with your kiddo.
What about weekends?
Although you will likely spend a lot of time with your child on the weekend, be sure to still incorporate an intentional 10-15-minute period of undivided, one-on-one attention, doing something he chooses to do.
Does bedtime count?
Do not count your time together at bedtime as your 10-15 minutes of positive attention each day. Bedtime routines serve a different purpose and are not a time of day your child has the freedom to choose how to spend his time.
Not all days or weeks are going to work out perfectly. That's okay. Five minutes a day is better than none on extra busy days. If you get off track, you may begin to notice attention seeking, or even poor behavior. Carving out 10 minutes of time on most days of the week will save you a lot of time correcting poor behavior. It is a worthwhile investment... for both your sanity and your kiddos heart. And another huge plus... it may fulfill your child's need for positive attention enough that he is willing to play on his own... giving you that alone time you have been yearning for all along.