How do children spell LOVE? Quality Time!

From a survival standpoint, your children are wired to connect with you to grow their developing...

A guest post by Megan Barella, Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator

Connection, through quality time, is a biological necessity for children

From a survival standpoint, your children are wired to connect with you to grow their developing brain, through quality time. According to Dr. Dan Siegel, children’s brains are like “sponge brains.” Your children are literally growing their developing brains off your mature and fully developed brain. In order to develop your children’s growing brains, they need quality time with you.

As a parent, you do your best to offer the highest quality of time with your children. During this quality time, you’re teaching valuable life skills to your children and you’re also offering them a trusting and loving positive relationship blueprint. Quality time, connection and positive relationship with you becomes the foundation for all your children’s future relationships. This includes the most important relationship in your children’s lives: the lifelong relationship your children have with themselves.

Connection, through quality time, leads to cooperation

In Positive Discipline, we say connection = cooperation, so when your children feels connected to you, they more naturally cooperate with you.

One of the most exciting, yet challenging, transitions in families is the birth of a new sibling. As your firstborn adjusts to the arrival of a new baby, the tool of Quality Time is a saving grace to keep your life manageable, help older siblings have a smooth transition to becoming a big sister or brother, and to enjoy your family to the fullest.

When the need for connection becomes misbehavior

Time with you is a basic human need for children. Unfortunately, children don’t have a way to determine if the time with you is positive or negative; children just know they have the need to spend time with you. So, if your children aren’t getting positive, quality time with you (which can be common when parents have their hands full with a new baby, a busy job, or multi-tasking personality), they can begin to demonstrate attention seeking, negative behavior, also known as misbehavior, to get your attention and connection.

Parents’ natural tendency is to respond to children’s misbehavior with negative parental behavior – like yelling, threatening, punishing, etc. This creates what Conscious Discipline calls a “negative feedback loop,” in which parents and children’s negative behaviors reinforce each other and intensify in negativity. As a parent, it can be easy to get stuck in a negative feedback loop and exceedingly difficult to change with the old punishment and reward model of parenting.

What to do if you’re stuck in a misbehavior cycle

Do you feel like might be you in a negative feedback loop with your children?

Are your kids demonstrating attention-seeking “mis”behavior in an attempt to connect with you?

You’re not alone!

Having compassion for yourself, your children and the situation is key.

Very often, families can switch this negative dynamic and reactive misbehavior cycle by proactively introducing regular quality time to meet your children’s need for connection in a positive way– so misbehavior is no longer needed.

Quality time can break the cycle of misbehavior

You may be thinking, I’m always with my child. We spend a lot of time together already. But quality time is a little bit different. The best quality time is when you hide your phone, set the timer, get on the floor, and follow your child’s lead in PLAY!

Description of quality time with children outline

Quality time guidelines


For children ages 6 and under, spend 10 minutes daily

For children ages 6 and up, spend 30 minutes a week


When possible, choose open-ended, right brained activities with a low frustration level that also help children integrate their emotions over left brained, competitive activities (like puzzles or games) that have higher frustration levels. Possible examples include: creative play with stuffies, animals or dolls, building with wooden blocks, doing art, spending time outdoors, making music together, or playing on the floor.

You might be 100% up for getting on the floor and following your child’s lead in play. Or you might decide to offer a few activities for your child to choose from. Either way it’s important that you’re enjoying the activities as much as possible and having fun enjoying time with your children too.

Connection (not discipline) is the goal

It’s possible your children may test you during this time. If your children “mis”behave during this time, do your best to stay in the love and keep focused on positive connection. Using humor, redirection or I Need a Hug can be helpful in these moments. It’s important to avoid discipline during this Connection time as this often will reinforce a negative, misbehavior cycle.

Why quality time matters

Children’s basic human need for connection is often disguised as attention seeking (and very annoying!) misbehavior. If you think the need for connection may be at the root of your children’s misbehavior, try bringing the tool of quality time alive in your home. Preventatively and proactively transform negative behavior cycles in your family and create a positive relationship blueprint with your children to last a lifetime with the tool of quality time — and enjoy your beautiful children in the process!

Want help with positive parenting ideas?

Would you like to learn more positive parenting tools to proactively transform misbehavior in your family, and teach valuable life skills to last a lifetime? “Just Listen to Me” is a 5 week online positive parenting program beginning August 6th. “Just Listen to Me” is both self-paced with Megan’s individualized coaching support to help you let go of the need to yell, threaten, bribe, reward or punish to get your children to listen. You can find more information here or email Megan with any questions about her course offering.

A little note from Brittney: I will be joining this upcoming group because raising a toddler is HARD, and I am always up for additional ideas, education and support in bringing up my son to be the best little boy that he can be! I can totally see the negative behavior cycle starting (and he’s freshly two), and I definitely struggle with setting aside purposeful and plentiful quality time, so I can’t wait to work with Megan! Let’s take the course together… It’d be so fun to go through it with YOU!

Parenting course for positive interaction

Reclaim your birthright to a happy home with Megan Barella, Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. With a 20 year background in education from the preschool through the high school years and master’s degree in Conflict Resolution, Megan helps families transform conflicts in their home. She brings a well of compassion, a mindfulness approach, and lots of real-life practicality to help bring out the best in you, so you can bring out the best in your children. Megan serves families and early childhood education teachers through her coaching and online programs, community-based classes, and conference workshops, and weekly blogs. Megan helps you become a calm + confident leader in your home, so you have the tools and support to transform your parenting stress and challenges into connection + cooperation and raise children who thrive from the inside out.

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