When your child doesn’t want to do special time


Special time; one of the five Hand in Hand Parenting tools, is a wonderful way to deepen your connection with your child, to build the safety they need to tell us their feelings. This 1-1 time following your child’s lead is something all children crave, and they will usually embrace the chance to do whatever they choose and soak up your loving attention.

So if you offer your child some special time and they say no it can leave you feeling confused and frustrated. Why on earth would a child choose not to do something they love with you?

Sometimes children feel particularly disconnected. Their feeling of hurt is so strong that it stands in the way of being with you. When my daughter say no to special time, it’s often because I’ve been unavailable for a while. And so she’ll tell me about the rejection she felt in the only way she knows how; by rejecting me.

Our children are hopeful, and forgiving so even if things have been tough, they won’t hold it against us for long. With a bit of fun and effort, they’ll soon open up, and want to be with us again.

If your young child is refusing special time; try this. Get a stuffed toy and beg them to do special time. You could have the toy say something funny like, ”I think you’re right not to do special time with your stinky mummy, lets run away and do special time by ourselves.”

Then have the toy run away with your toy and chase them saying, ”hey, that’s not fair. I want to do special time.” Playlistening games like this melt the ice and make it more likely your child will say yes next time.

If your child refuses to do special time, even with the stuffed toy, have the toy hide in a box, or pillow and then ‘sneak up’ on your child, to spend time with them, doing whatever they are doing. Follow where your mind takes you, and see how you can use play, and giggles, to reconnect.

Another tactic that also works well, particularly with older children is to try some ‘unannounced’ special time.

Life happens, our connection can get frayed, but with a few fun games at the ready, we can get back to joyful connection again.

For more ideas on how to reconnect after difficult times you might also want to check out my article Healing Broken Connections.

4 thoughts on “When your child doesn’t want to do special time

  1. Could it also be that rather than the child sending us a message about our behaviour, they are simply expressing the needs that they have at that point in time: for space, rest or freedom of choice etc? I find I can get hurt and guilty if I attribute their behaviour to my actions. I find it easier to guess what needs are ‘up’ for them at this particular moment. What are your feelings on that?

  2. HI Naomi, absolutely! That is a very good point that I should have put in this post. I think as parents we can identify if the not wanting do special time is because they are genuinely just busy doing something else.. Or if that not wanting to do it is due to feeling disconnected for us. It’s never our ‘fault’ that they don’t want to do special time, sometimes kids just feel disconnected because of what they’re going through, and what they need is us to try a bit harder to build the connection again. Thanks for pointing this out to me, it seems so obvious now I think about it!

  3. Yes I find this very intrusive on the child. Give them a little space to reject you if that’s what they want to do for the time being. The Hand in Hand parenting thing is just so intense! even the “fun” stuff (giggleparenting !) is so forced and unspontaneous, overthought and just plain phoney at times.

    1. Hi Lalla, thank you for you comment, it raises a very important point, that sometimes children do want space and I will add a bit to the article to mention this. In my own relationship with my daughter, I know that she almost always wants special time and that the times she says no, it’s because she actually feels rejected because I haven’t done it in a while, hence the playful way to find connection again.

      To give an analogy of what i’m trying to do here, when I was a teenager and started going to university, my cat would ignore me when I came back home. I sensed that deep down, my cat wanted to connect with me but was just in a mood with me for being away so long! So this game is just about that, working extra hard, to break through the walls that stand in the way of close connection.

      You know your child best, and whether they geninuinly need space or for you to work extra hard to get through to them. Every situation is different.

      It’s not our intention for Hand in Hand Parenting to be intense, to mean you have to be constantly interacting and playing with your children. These tools should help children internalise a strong sense of connection so that they are happy to play independently. And that to me is the key point, that when they are happy and well-connected, they don’t need constant connection and attention from us.

      Likewise, you’re right that the best play comes sponateneously! The games I share, are meant to be to spark people’s inspiration, and are a starting point and if something about it doesn’t feel right then it’s probably not what is really needed in the moment. You are the best expert on your family situation!

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