Thursday, June 4, 2015

Parenting Pointers: The Power of Playfulness

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own. 

Adapted from The Whole-Brain Child Workbook by Daniel Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., Ó PESI Publishing, 2015.

As adults we’re often caught up with the goal of getting things done, or moving on to the next task. Because of that, teaching important life skills through play, or shifting emotions by being silly, isn’t always our natural inclination. However, the more we do it, the easier it becomes. And it often saves us a lot of time and energy, because kids are more likely to cooperate when we’re being playful.

Think about the parts of your day that typically seem to result in power struggles between you and your child. Are there certain areas where you feel like you’re pulling teeth to get your child to cooperate? For some families, getting ready to get out the door, homework time, mealtimes, or bedtime can be moments of tension and frustration – they may even have become moments you dread!

Consider the power of playfulness during times like this. How can you use silliness (or playfulness) when faced with those parts of your day that most often result in tears or tantrums? Here are a couple of examples of typical situations and possible alternatives.

Situation #1: My son struggles to get out of the house for school each day. I feel like I’m always nagging him to do even the simplest tasks and we both end up so frustrated with each other.
How I usually respond/try to get cooperation: Nagging (asking multiple times for each step). Chore boards. Doing everything myself. Getting irritated when at last
the minute he runs back to the house for forgotten homework, sweater, lunch, etc.
Something silly, fun, or playful I can do instead:
Since he loves video games, maybe I can make his morning routine into a game where each chore/responsibility done means he gets to a new level. Respond to each level reached with silly song & dance (it would probably help me reduce my stress level as well).
See if he can beat his score each week by doing things faster? Adding more responsibilities?

Situation #2: My daughter refuses every time she needs to take a bath. No matter how long it’s been, she tries to negotiate her way out of it. I think it’s more about the transition away from what she’s doing – as opposed to the actual bath (she loves it once she’s there).
How I usually respond/try to get cooperation: I’ve tried rewards, “making deals,” yelling, letting her make the schedule, etc. Now I anticipate the struggle and get annoyed before I even tell her it’s time to bathe.
Something silly, fun, or playful I can do instead:
Announce bath time in a silly accent or pretend I’m a character from a TV show she likes – continue with the accent throughout bath time.
Create a treasure map to lead her to the bath?

Let her ride on my back to the bathroom and pretend I’m her pony?

As busy people, it’s easy to get caught up in our own agenda of wanting to get things done so we can get on to the next activity. In doing this though, we lose sight of the fact that our children are people who have their own internal lives, their own temperaments, and even their own agendas! Yes, we all need our children to learn how to cooperate, to follow through, and to think as part of the group. But losing your connection (and your patience) with your child over your desire for her to do what you want, when you want it, isn’t an effective way to teach those skills.

When you face potential power struggles with your child, observe your own patterns of behavior, then make room for a different, more lighthearted response that can lead to less resistance from your child, as well as more connection between the two of you.

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