We work hard to develop well behaved and respectful children. There’s one area though, in raising lovely children, that often gets overlooked.

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Parents tend to have a list of consequences and punishments that should work, or at the very least be bad behaviour deterrents. Here’s a spoiler- the list doesn’t always work, and when it doesn’t, parents find themselves exhausted and confused. There are times when the lengthy lectures, reasoning, time out, withdrawal of privileges, writing letters of apology, extra jobs given, no outings, just won’t do the trick.

Introducing ‘Together time’

‘Together time’ can change the dynamic between a parent and child from negative and oppositional, to co-operative and happy. When threats and consequences don’t seem to be working, it might be because your child doesn’t feel great about themselves.

A child who feels right, acts right. When most of the parenting is correcting, lecturing, teaching, and growling, it’s hard for a child to feel lovable or capable. Instead of putting the pressure on with more punishments and consequences, you might find yourself getting further if you address how your child is feeling.

‘Together time’ requires spending intentional time with your child, giving attention to what they’re doing. It tells them that you love them and enjoy their company. As a child begins to feel lovable, their need for attention for the wrong reasons diminishes. When this happens, much of the problem behaviour goes away. John Cooper writes about this strategy in his book ‘Getting on with others’, and simply calls it ‘child’s play’.

How to do ‘Together time’

Gather some energy and space to set up special times with your child. Mark it in your diary – it’ll help to build your child’s anticipation of the special time you’ll share together. Make sure it happens regardless of what’s happened during the week, remembering that your ‘Together time’ with them isn’t based on their behaviour, but it’s a result of your unconditional love for them. This technique takes a little bit of bedding down, but has the ability to soften a child’s heart, build more trust in the relationship and make it easier for them to comply. Simply observe, enjoy and narrate what your child is doing. This isn’t a play session, or a chance to ask questions. It’s a time to just be present with your child.

‘Together time’ checklist 

  • Write the ‘together time’ plan on a calendar so your child can anticipate the connection
  •  Find a suitable time that you can devote to your child each day or 3-4 times a week
  •  Set aside 15 minutes for each session
  • When it’s time, say to your child “It’s now our special time to play together. What would you like to do?”
  • Relax and enjoy what your child is doing
  • Describe out loud what your child is doing. State the obvious, say what you see just like a commentator would. “I see you’ve decided to keep reading that interesting book. I’ll just lie down here beside you.”

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About Author

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale is our Senior Family Coach and we’ve been lucky enough to have her on our team for 19 years now. Once upon a time, Jenny was a teacher. These days, she spends her time supporting our team of Family Coaches, training new ones, and travelling around the country talking in preschools, schools and churches. She loves working with families and helping them find solutions to the challenges they face with behaviour and parenting. Jenny has been married to Stuart for 40 years and adores being a grandma to her grandkids (who live just 1km away). She needs a support group so she can stop buying books for them. She’d love to raise free-range chickens, write children’s books and perhaps even take up horse-riding again.

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