The Power of One On One Time

It’s time once again for Heather Johnson from Family Volley to share with us some Parenting Tips as part of her “Parenting Tips” here on The Idea Room. Here’s Heather in her own words about spending one on one time with kids.

Is there whining and temper tantrums in your house? Do you have to ask your children repeatedly to “help” or “pick something up?” Do your kids misbehave or talk back?

Do you want it to stop? Believe it or not, spending One-on-one time with our children, will drastically change our child’s behavior for the better. 

The GOAL: Spend 15 minutes of ONE-ON-ONE-TIME a day, with each of your children. 

Why? Kids need and want attention. When they are not getting enough positive attention, they misbehave. Why? It gets them attention. Their reasoning, “my mom won’t play a game of CandyLand with me, but, if I color on the walls with my markers, then she will have to pay attention to me”. It doesn’t matter if it is negative attention because in their eyes, it is still attention. 

When we give our children positive attention, they won’t have the need to misbehave to get us to notice them. And, when we spend time connecting with our children it provides them with security. They feel safe in their relationships with us and with their place in the family. This will also lead to improved behavior.

Here’s how it works: 

1. Give each child 15 minutes of ONE-ON-ONE-TIME everyday. You want to focus on each child individually, so don’t combine your children’s time. 

2. This is uninterrupted time. That means, no computers, no TV, and no cell phones. Don’t play Chutes and Ladders while you are checking your email on your phone (not that I have ever done that).

3. Let your children choose the activities. Ask your kids what they want to do. This gives them a choice. It makes them feel in-charge and that they have some control. This is really important to making this ONE-ON-ONE-TIME work. If we tell them what they will do, they feel forced.

Help your child make a list of the things they would like to do during their ONE-ON-ONE-TIME. That way when it is time to be together, you can refer to the list and not waste any time having fun.

Just this week, our 7 year old daughter wanted to “write stories’ for her one-on-one time. All I could think about was the housework that needed to be done and the papers I needed to grade. I sat down with pens and paper in front of me and we started to talk and write. We made up silly stories and took turns illustrating each other’s ideas. Then we started laughing, harder than I have laughed in months. I forgot about all about the housework. Instead, I noticed our daughter’s smile, and her easy laugh. I realized what a creative mind she has, and we talked about ALL the things going on at school. When we finished, she gave me a hug and kiss and said “thanks mom, that was really fun”.

4. Be consistent. This is not a one time occurrence. One-on-one time needs to happen everyday, always. We need to make a personal commitment to spending this time together, and make sure it happens. 

5. One-on-one time is more important than the household chores. It is easy to let our household duties get in the way of our time with our kids. We feel those things have to be done now, and that we can get to our kids later, or tomorrow, or when they are older. Fact of the matter is, nothing is more important than our children. Mopping the floor can wait 15 minutes. Sit down and play. Or else our kids will be 18 and moving out and we will have regrets that we can’t do anything about.

Looking to transform negative behavior? Spend one-on-one time with your children. Not only will their behavior change, but your relationship will be strengthened at the same time. It’s a win win.

Do you think you can do this?

What makes it hard to find time to be with our kids? 

*Reading is a great way to spend some time with your children.  Check out this list of 50 of the BEST Children’s Books!

best children's books


  1. t says

    I love this. The difficult part is hoping the other kids don’t interrupt! :) Also, trying to convince tweeners and teens to ‘want’ to do something with mom!

    • says

      Hi “t”,
      You are right, kids can interrupt, but they will soon come to appreciate their time with you so much that they will be more willing to respect their siblings time.

      With teens and tweens, it is really important to make a list together of things they would want to do. Then they will be much more willing to do something with mom.

  2. says

    I think this is a great concept, although I’m trying to figure out how it will really work. What do you do when those 15 minutes are up? Do you quit what you’re doing, even if you’re having a great bonding time? Especially when you have other kids that need the one on one time as well. And I’m wondering if my teenage son will actually want to do this. I’m not sure what kinds of things we could do together for 15 minutes. Also, how do you keep other kids from interrupting? Maybe I’m over thinking it, but I’m just trying to wrap my head around how to make it work for me.

    • says

      Hi Brenda, all great questions.
      You don’t have to stop when 15 minutes are up. You just want to make sure you are spending at least 15 minutes so that you can actually do something together. No need to quit if you don’t have to :). More than one child necessitates lots of tricky balance. For us, I give our daughter her one on one time when the older kids are at school and the baby is asleep. Our baby gets my time in the early morning when she gets up to eat. Our oldest child, our son, gets to stay up a little later than his sisters, so I spend individual time with him at night once the girls are in bed. Our 7 year old daughter usually gets her time when at least one of the other kids are up, but I make sure to explain that it is her time and give the other kids things to do so they don’t interrupt. It is a balance, but it is worth. it. When other kids interrupt, explain what is going on, and that they get their own time also. It might take a week or so, but soon, all the kids will understand and look forward to their own time, so they will respect the time that is their siblings.

  3. says

    Thank you. I needed a reminder. I have noticed a behavior difference on days that one-on-one time occurs. I need to do this on a regular basis.

  4. says

    thank you for the reminder! It is so seriously important, and I am heavily guilty of letting housework get in the way. I do take this time for my younger 2, but your post made me realize I never do it for my 8 year old. I will make sure to get on this!


    • says

      Thanks for your comment. It is really easy to forget about the older kids. They seem to be less demanding and take care of themselves. Easy for us to overlook spending time with them also.

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