Help may be at hand for you if you are guilt-ridden, time-poor parents who always think you’re not quite up to the mark!
Parenting is fantastic, rewarding and the most important job in the world but sometimes it’s tough, challenging and time-consuming.
A new parenting technique called FAST could be the answer to stop you busy parents beating yourselves up and to make your children happier.
At the crux of it is spending 15 minutes a day focusing on your child, without any distractions – quality time in a funsize chunk.
The FAST programme
FAST – Families and Schools Together – is the brainchild of Professor Lynn McDonald. She started up the programme in the United States and now it’s being rolled out in selected UK primary schools.
There are about 50 groups at the moment covering 600 families and the number is set to grow.
It’s an eight-week programme which claims to improve children’s behaviour and their relationships with their parents.
Families meet with each other at schools and do activities together and learn how to listen and play.
15 minutes of focus
The crucial part is the homework. Every day for eight weeks the parents set aside 15 minutes in which the child chooses an activity and the parent follows without telling the child what to do, making suggestions or criticising.
The hard bit is that the parent can’t be distracted. No having half an eye on the TV, texting friends, checking emails and social networking sites, making tea or tidying up – just pure focus!
Lynn McDonald, who is now Professor of Social Work research at Middlesex University, says, “I was a single mum in the States with two kids and felt as a parent I needed to do something extra.”
As an academic she was teaching about the benefits of spending time with kids and thought she’d put into practice the rule of spending 15 minutes a day with each child.
“I tried it and was astounded; my children really craved it.”
“It’s really hard not to try to teach your child but it’s for me. The 15 minute rule is the most powerful intervention a parent can do.”
“It takes practice … it’s cheap and it doesn’t take much time.
‘Children spell love T-I-M-E’
Sue Atkins is a top parenting expert and author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies”
She says, “Children spell love T-I-M-E.”
Sue says when she’s coaching she asks parents, “When your children are older how will they see their childhood? Will it be with you nagging and rushing around?”
She says it doesn’t need to be like that. “A child needs to feel valued, not directed or taught.”
Parenting doesn’t come easily to everyone.
“When you get a new washing machine there’s a handbook in 15 different languages… for a child there’s not even a handbook!”
Her advice is instead of saying to your child “in a minute”, spend that minute with your child, listening to them, filling up the child’s emotional bank. She says they’ll feel better and probably won’t go on to nag and whine at you either.
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