Best Behavior Modification Tool: Mommy Time

Jan 4, 2012

Thank you all for your kind words and prayers after my post on Monday. I wrote that post for myself. I needed to get the words out & I felt like I would be inauthentic if I wrote any other words. Since my expectations on how it was received were low, it was such a blessing to my soul to be given your encouragement.

One reader in her wise comment reminded me of the best parenting tool I have ever received. Mary wrote:

“As a mom whose youngest child is turning 22 in February I am here to remind you: ‘This too shall pass.’
Take it one day at a time, organize to spend individual time with each child every week, and before you know it they will be grown.”

I have been really struggling with our 4-year-old, middle son…with obedience, his language, how he treats his brothers. A year ago when I was struggling with his behavior I was desperate enough to seek out the help of a professional.

Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions taught me through a webinar some Adlerian psychology to help explain why kids misbehave. She stated that a child’s primary goal is to achieve belonging and significance.

Belonging: emotionally connected; secure about my place in the family; have sufficient POSITIVE ATTENTION

Significance: I am capable; I make a difference; I contribute in meaningful ways; I have PERSONAL POWER

So the child is saying “I want to belong and feel significant, but i don’t know how to do it.”

This is when the misbehavior such as: whining, clinging, helplessness, sibling rivalry, and tantruming occurs. If they don’t get the positive attention they need they will get it with negative attention seeking behavior. If they don’t get the personal power they need (when we order them around too much) they become more defiant.

In order to provide our children with a feeling of belonging and significance, Amy suggests “Mody, Body, Soul time” or what I refer to as “mommy time”.

Mommy Time: spending one-on-one time with each child for at least 10 minutes, 2x per day.

Guidelines for Mommy Time:

  • mom (or dad) needs to be emotionally available…not on the phone or computer.
  • activity should not be on the computer or time spent watching t.v.
  • do what the child wants to do (a puzzle, game, color, chase, trains)
  • label it before and after

Last year I had been really good about implementing “mommy time” but I have completely neglected it the last 6 months or so. Yesterday when I read that reader’s comment I was reminded of the importance of one-on-one time with each boy and how it would help with my middle son’s behavior.

You may read “ten minutes one-on-one with your child” and think that is not very much. I was actually amazed how if I’m not intentional I can go the whole day without being one-on-one with my boys.

Being a pretty routine/structured person, it was helpful for me to be routine in when we did “mommy time”. Some moms enjoy a more relax way of life and “mommy time” may happen naturally in their day. I needed it scheduled…

Here is the schedule I’m hoping to re-introduce:


  •  7:30 to 8–eat breakfast
  • 8 to 8:20-clean up breakfast and get dressed
  • 8:20 to 8:50- mommy time!

Afternoon (after naps/quiet time)

  • 4 to 5 waking up/playing/snacks
  • 5 to 5:30 mommy time
  • 5:30 to 6:30 cook dinner

I think what amazes me is how spending “mommy time” with each boy actually allows me freedom to do other things afterward. Because their “attention baskets” are filled  they don’t interrupt me cooking dinner and I deal with less problem behaviors in the evenings.

My tips for multiple children:

  • draw names to decide who goes first
  • emphasize the importance of not interrupting another child’s time (consequence is that the child they interrupted gets more time added)
  • may need to set a timer on the microwave or your phone
  • tell the child “I loved spending time with you. It was really fun to ______”.

My goal this week is to implement “mommy time” into our days. Will you join me? I would love the accountability! Our own little “mommy time” challenge. 

Linking up with:


  1. Kristi

    Again brilliant. I’m so glad you share all this. I do feel like I learn so much from you! Will try implementing this myself!!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Thanks friend!! Hope it as miraculous for you as it was for me!

  2. Meaghan Jackson

    I love this idea. I have been wanting to do this but wasn’t sure where to start. I think I’ll have to get creative about the time I spend with my kids. My younger one isn’t going to leave me alone for long. Thanks for post!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Sometimes Meaghan I would have the baby sit in my lap while I had mommy time with the older ones. He was present but not distracting. Also have sat the youngest in his highchair with a snack while doing mommy time with the other two. Hope it works for your family!

  3. fwinslow

    Thanks for this specific and honest post. I need this reminder as a mom with 3 kids 3 and under. The days can seem long, and difficult to manage. The fog settles in and all of us feel frustrated. Thanks for your vulnerability and leadership in this area! I look forward to linking my readers to this blog!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Thank you Francie for your encouragement. There should be a club for moms of 3 kids, 3 and under. Definite challenge…lots of babies needing your constant love and help. Thank you for sharing this site with others.

  4. Jacinda @ Growing Home

    Where have you been hiding?! I just discovered your blog via Women Living Well link-up – what a vessel of wisdom! May I add site to the Lovely Blog Directory at Growing Home?

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Ha! Glad you found me! Would love to be added to your blog directory Jacinda. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. The Tadey (Lisa B)

    I think my oldest two already think the two youngest get mommy time all the time! I’m going to make a point to give the two big ones time starting today!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Hope it helps with the older two…definitely older kids don’t demand the 1-on-1 like younger kids do. But I think they sometimes need it the most!

  6. Christina

    A book series based on Adlerian theory is called, “Systematic Training for Effectice Parenting (STEP)” You’ve probably heard of it already but it was one I used to use when I was doing child psychotherapy. I love the ten minute mommy time. I always forget the importance of that. Gary Chapman calls it “filling their love tank.” Great post! So glad I stopped by today from WLW.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      I will definitely have to check out that book. Love new books! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Linnea

    What a great idea! I don’t want to miss this precious time of their lives.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Hard balance between cherishing this time and not losing your mind. I’m so structured I feel like this helped everyone feel better!

  8. Rebekah Survance

    After I read this, I thought about it for a minute and realized… so true!!! The week of the holidays was like button pushing to no end with my son and I couldn’t figure it out… well, the schedule was upside down, people were over or not over, my husband was home… and I sit here and think back and realize most of the conversation to our son was “stop that”, “do this”, “no”, “sit down”, “calm down”, “no”, “that’s not nice”, “time out”, “no”…. ugh! No wonder he acted out SO much! I usually aim for “mommy” time every day to do something he likes to do… but that week was overkill for me and I completely disregarded that time (shame on me). So, he was reprimanded, when it most likely could have been avoided… but what do you do when you’re exhausted? I have days like that after a stressful time or just plain busyness… the exhaustion sets in and I don’t want to do anything but curl up on the couch in jammies and a blanket and watch movies… I’ll let my son curl up with me. It’s not 100% mommy time, but it’s nice to snuggle now and then too! 🙂 But those days are hard to find motivation for anything… what do you do?

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Oh the holidays! lack of routine. Increased demands on our time. Multiple expectations to fulfill. I think we give ourselves and our kids an extra dose of grace over the holidays. Realize they are what they are and move on into the new year! I say snuggling together and watching t.v. is awesome!! I think being present with them and physical touch (especially for boys) is wonderful. For me it’s balancing giving each boy the attention he craves. Sometimes that requires a system to make it happen. Keep up the cuddling!!!

  9. erin

    Thanks for the reminder Heather! I remember when you wrote about it before and it challenged me then and now is a good time to get back to being more intentional after the crazy holidays!!

  10. Heidi of Wonder Woman Wannabe

    I, too, have had the opportunity to learn the amazing results that having regular pockets of intentional time with kiddos can bring!
    We call these times ‘special time’ around our home:

    my own sweet mama was wonderful at this and we created a list that I continued adding to for this post as well:

    I’m like you – I need to plan these times into my day. (and it is SO apparent if it hasn’t happened for one reason or another!) 🙂

  11. Jennie

    love this idea! thanks!

  12. Christy@pipandsqueak

    Heather, I remember when K was about 18 months I really noticed this need and that if she did not get mommy time she was cranky and needy but if her love take was filled she had a much better day. It hit me then that it is so similar to how we are with our time with God. If we have time with him, our day is better and if we miss it we are cranky. Thanks for the reminder. I need to do better at this.


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