Where Every Family Matters

Know Thy Children: Give Them a Private 15 Minutes a Day

Research says the quality of your time with your kids matters. Commit to giving one-on-one time to each of your kids each day.

With school underway, your life is now super-charged, so be sure to make room for a private 15 minutes a day with each of your kids. You cannot really know your kids unless you spend time, on purpose, getting to know him. In our hurry-up-and-go world, attached to technology as we are, it’s very possible for you to “miss” your kids as they grow up. By “miss” we mean, that they would grow up into young adults and suddenly you’d realize you blew opportunities to spend more time with them.

COMMIT TO 15 Minutes a Day

It’s time for you to commit to a daily 15 minute check-in each day with each one of your kids. Even if you’re out of town you can call and speak to your kids. Ask about homework, friends, thoughts, hobbies — dig in and get to know this marvelous person in front of you!

Many parents are consciously attempting a Daily 15 in order to enrich the relationships with their kids. Here are other reasons to give it a whirl:

Create balance

If you have more than one child, you may get very little time with just one, and unlike parents of one child, interactions about child interactions often dominate their time together. Unfortunately, many of these interactions arise from disputes. Spending one-on-one time with children ensures they receive plenty of positive interactions with you, plenty of talking time with you and plenty of opportunity to balance the negative.

Encourage bonding

Even when children allow their parents to engage in personal discussions with their siblings, the discussions take on a different quality with siblings interrupting, listening in, changing the subject, making requests, getting bored, etc. Without the competing interests of other children, you can move at a relaxed pace, explore individual topics of interest, and follow conversations to much deeper levels. Knowing a child only as he is in the presence of siblings means knowing only one (and not necessarily the most favorable) side of him. Bonding with children may take some effort from the parents in finding that quiet spot or time to really engage with each other.

Increase self-esteem

They say actions speak louder than words. You can tell our children how important they are to you and how much you like them, but do your actions confirm that message? Planning time with your child alone when nothing short of a house fire can pull you away gives him a chance to fully experience being your top priority and proves you genuinely enjoy his company. According to the authors of Raising Resilient Children, “Setting aside times for each child individually [may be] the most powerful way of communicating appreciation.”

Reduce misbehavior

Children behave better when they feel better about themselves, and they feel better about themselves when they get positive feedback from their parents. Hence, the positive interactions and feelings of importance resulting from one-on-one time create a cycle, leading to improved conduct at other times as well. Attention-seeking behavior problems and clingy-ness also decrease when children know they can count on undivided attention. Spending alone time with your kids will bring out the best in each of you and provide a positive foundation you can build on.

“Special time” can take many different forms, from discussing daily highlights at bedtime to taking weekly trips to the bakery. Authors of Positive Discipline for Preschoolers say, “Even a trip to the grocery store can become special when you devote your full attention to being together.” What makes it “special” is that it’s defined as such and occurs with one child and without outside interruption. During my daily two 15-minute shifts, I do whatever each child wants, paying no heed to the telephone, e-mail or even my husband. Whenever I turn down an invitation to play, I remind my children of that wonderful time we’ll have together in the evening, giving them something to look forward to the whole day. This brief 15 minutes conveys how important they are to me, and how much I enjoy them each individually, in a way words alone simply can’t.


About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.