We want to be good parents and we want to give our children as much of our focus and time as we can. We know that giving our children our time is important for their optimal development. Yet we’re swamped with demands and juggling our family’s schedules and individual needs. We can certainly look for areas to simplify and be conscious of how we are prioritizing our time as much as we can. Yet, beyond the basics of keeping our children safe and healthy, we know we’ve also got a duty to care for their mental, social and emotional needs. As a conscious and dedicated parent, we expend significant energy observing our children’s behaviour and needs, evaluating our parenting strategies and adjusting our approach, while also managing ourselves. That’s a lot on our plates.
Is there anything we can do to make better use of time with our kids? To make that time count as much as possible?
Here are the most important ten minutes of parenting.
Disclaimer: Seriously, you can’t parent in just ten minutes and call it a day. That’s a no-brainer. However, there are indeed specific ten-minute blocks of family life that are more important than others.
So then, to which parts of your child’s day should you be bringing your A-game?
- Wake up time. Let the first thing you say to your child be positive. Express joy upon seeing them (even when you feel you need 30 more hours of sleep and a liter of coffee just to function). One smile or kind word can create a happy buffer to protect them all day. Likewise, a grumbled negative comment can impact their day and over time these comments contribute to a negative self-view. Allow ten minutes of time for snuggles, giggles or chitchat to fill their cup for the day—before tackling the morning rush.
- Meals. These are prime connection opportunities. You’re all a captive audience for one another. Use it to debrief, express gratitude and appreciation, laugh or have healthy debates about current hot topics. Get a few bites in first to quell the “hangries,” then jump in. Just don’t leave your talk until the end with little ones as they’ll already be thinking about getting back to their toys.
- Right before transition times (ie. ending a fun activity or leaving home for school.) By taking as little as one-two minutes to observe what they’re engage in–to share a laugh or a loving hug–can make for a smoother shift and a more cooperative child.
- Right before you start a task that’s important to you, like a phone call or making dinner. If you don’t, you know you’ll spend a lot more time than that, reminding them to let you finish or asking for “Just five more minutes, honey.” Their need for connection will be filled and you will feel that your needs are respected, too. Less resentment from both of you. Sounds like a win-win to me!
- For younger and busier kids, the first few minutes of a new activity. Help littles ones through the transition by joining them as they get settled into the activity. You will be amazed how long they can keep playing cooperatively without interrupting your tasks with the squabbles, boredom or requests for your attention that so often happen.
- Bedtime. Most parents are reasonably good at allowing a quiet time for connection at the end of the day.
Another disclaimer here: Your child will likely need more than ten minutes to reconnect with you at bedtime, but this is absolutely one of the most important times of the day for a number of reasons. Your child has lots of thoughts, worries and emotions to process with you. They’ve been banking them all day while at school or daycare. They need a compassionate parent, who isn’t rushed, to help them settle for a restful night’s sleep. You can ask a few questions, then let them lead as they release the hurts from the day, ask big questions about the nature of the universe. And let them end their day with undivided attention from you and watch your relationship flourish.
We certainly need more than these ten-minute blocks with our kids of course, but when you focus more of your energy on these five, you will see a significant shift in your child’s well-being, your mutual good feelings and the level of cooperation you both experience.
Be sure to let me know how it goes!