The Benefits of Giving Kids One-On-One Attention

Mother playing with her daughter
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Giving your child a few minutes of your undivided attention each day can be one of the simplest, yet most effective things you could do as a parent. Although many families struggle to find time together, spending one-on-one time with your child is worth the effort.

Why One-On-One Time is Important

Giving your child 10 minutes of one on one time each day has a multitude of benefits. Daily doses of positive attention can prevent a lot of behavior problems.

Children are less likely to exhibit attention seeking behavior when they know they can consistently count on having time with their parent every day.

Whether your child is an infant or a teenager, spending quality time together is the best way to bond. When you have a healthy relationship, your child will be more motivated to follow your rules and show you respect.

Negative consequences are also more effective when you’ve got a healthy relationship. For example, time-out won’t work unless you’re actively practicing “time in.” Additionally, ignoring will only work when your child is used to getting healthy doses of positive attention.

Nurturing behavior can also impact your child's development. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that a parent's nurturing behavior and expressions of support, can improve a child's brain development. In fact, it can lead to a significantly larger hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that plays a key role in cognition.

One-On-One Activities

You can spend your one-on-one time doing a variety of activities. Build with blocks, play with dolls, or toss a ball back and forth. It’s best to find an activity that allows you to interact.

Try to avoid electronics - they usually don't allow for much interaction. Look for activities that will allow you to be imaginative or creative.

Let your child take the lead. Resist the temptation to create a lot of rules or to insist that things be done “right” during your time together. If your child wants to color a tree purple, let it happen. Focus on building your relationship – not teaching your child the “right” way to do things.

Dealing with Misbehavior

If your child misbehaves, try ignoring the behavior if it is safe to do so. For example, look the other way if your child exhibits obnoxious behavior. Then, as soon as it stops, re-engage with positive attention and praise. Your child will quickly learn that appropriate behavior will help her gain attention.

If it’s a more serious behavior – like an act of aggressionplace her in time-out. End your time together and remind her that you’ll have time together again tomorrow.

One-On-One Time Vs. Family Activities

When you only have one child, 10 minutes a day can be easy to do. But, for single parents with multiple children, it gets a little harder to do.

While family activities are important, one-on-one time will really help your child feel special.

It's an essential component to developing a healthy relationship. So for at least 10 minutes each day, try to set aside time for each child individually.

That may mean you need to take turns. You may need to give other children a task or activity to do while you give another child 10 minutes of your time. Then, when your time is over, give the next child a turn.

If it’s not possible to spend 10 minutes a day – perhaps you work during the evenings or you're the non-custodial parent– schedule longer one on one times during the weekends. Create as many opportunities as possible to ensure your child is able to engage in some unstructured time with you.

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