Spend 20-30 minutes of one-on-one time with your kid, doing whatever it is they want you to do. Seriously. Get down on their level (close to their Legos, Barbies, books, games or whatever it is that they’re into) and let them decide what you’re going to play. Then let them decide what happens.
All you have to do here is follow their lead and listen. Be present. That’s it.
What you don’t want to do is take over the game, or try to “win.”
Your job is just to be there. This is how you reconnect (and repair your relationship). According to the books where I found this nifty little trick, this simple one-on-one time with your kid is enough to repair most wounds.
Meaning that it’s a great tool to use when
- you’re trying to fix things with your kid after you’ve yelled at them, been mean to them or otherwise evil in any way (hey, no judgement. I’ve been there!),
- you’ve messed things up by forgetting their game, missing a meeting, etc.,
- your kid is in the middle of some kind of transition/challenge and needs some extra TLC
- your kid’s acting out because he or she hasn’t seen you enough lately
- ________ (insert challenge of your choice).
Don’t believe me?
Do this once or twice a week, and you should see some pretty noticeable changes. Child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan recommends 30 minutes every day, which would be great in a perfect world, but I don’t think most of us have that kind of time, what with work and our other responsibilities, not to mention our other children. But we do already have enough parenting guilt on our plates, so the last thing I want to do is add to that mess.
So I asked my therapist friend Scarlet for advice. “You don’t have to do floortime every day,” she said. “Once or twice a week, maybe. Try using it after something big’s happened, and you feel like you need to reconnect.”
Which is what I’ve been doing lately. And each and every time, it’s saved my ass. Of course, my main challenge is the simple act of remembering this trick once I’ve blown my top. Because when things get as bad as they’ve been around our house lately, the last thing I’m doing is thinking clearly.
But I tried it with both Nico and Gabriel this week and it worked. I spent some serious time getting mauled playing Legos with Nico, then getting creamed while playing LaCrosse with Gabriel. When a little person doesn’t have a lot of control in their lives, I’m guessing that it feels pretty damn good to clobber their parents once in a while.
Does that mean that we’re completely back on track?
Hell, no. I’m still trying to figure out this whole damn parenting thing.
But at least we’re moving forward again. And that has to be the best news of the day.
Your challenge–should you choose to accept it–is to spend 30 minutes of one-on-one time with your child this weekend, doing whatever it is he or she wants you to do.
Let me know how it goes, will you? I’ll be pulling for you!