Father and son on swing

Negative Attention-Getting & Together Time

October 1st, 2013


All children want attention and, for most children, negative attention is better than no attention at all. Sometimes your child may challenge limits and engage in power struggles as a way to get your attention, albeit in a negative way. When it seems like there is an uptick in the amount and intensity of discipline issues with your child, it is important to examine whether you are spending enough one-on-one time together. In order to ensure that the behavior is not negative attention-getting, being proactive about positive attention through one-on-one time can be very effective! It is important to plan at least one or two times each week to focus solely on your child and to give them your undivided attention. This one-on-one time doesn’t have to be doing a special activity or buying a toy—the best one-on-one time is playing together with the games and toys that your child wants to play with.

One-on-one time with your child at least two to three times per week for 30-45 minutes each time is a powerful connection for both you and your child. During this one-on-one time be sure to engage in the play that your child chooses and be sure to listen and follow your child’s lead. Allow your child to be directing the play. This is a time to hang out together and for you to understand your child on a deeper level. Think of this as a date with your child. You might give it a special name, such as Together TimeDad and Daughter TimeMom and Madeline Time, or, as one four-year-old calls it, Sparkle Time. Talk about it before—“I can’t wait to see what you want to do during our Rashid and Mom Time”—and talk about it after—“Clara, I smile every time I think of our Special Time together yesterday.”

During this Together Time your child should be the director of the play. You are observing and commenting, in a non-judgmental way, the action. You are participating as your child wants—engaging with them and learning about them through their play. This is a time where you are totally tuned in to your child and joining with them in their world.

If there are siblings, this one-on-one time may be difficult to arrange as siblings shouldn’t be present and shouldn’t be able to interrupt.  But if there are siblings, this one-on-one time is even more important.

At every parenting workshop I always talk about the importance of One-on-One Time. It is awesomely powerful. I have seen positive changes in a child’s challenging behavior after two to three weeks of One-on-One Time, several times a week, with Mom and/or Dad.




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