Playfully engaging with children, especially in matters of discipline and parenting is sometimes mistaken as being permissive. But, playful parenting most often leads to more cooperation and listening. It is possible to be playful and set meaningful parenting limits.
Playful Parenting means joining children in their world of play, focusing on connection and confidence. -Lawrence Cohen, author of Playful Parenting.
Playfully connecting with a child fuels cooperation and a child’s sense of capability. You can also use playfulness with your child to:
- reduce power struggles
- help a child accomplish a task with enthusiasm
- acknowledge and overcome fears and worries
- encourage children to be onboard with doing chores
- help siblings get along
- avoid tantrums and meltdowns
- set limits that are kind and clear
Here are two examples of using playful parenting that invite children to listen and cooperate.
Playful Parenting: Fantasy and Story Telling to Fuel Cooperation
When one of my children was around age 4, he decided he no longer wanted to have his hair washed. Instead of engaging in a power struggle, I tried to listen to his concerns. He was worried about the water in his eyes. This new issue also coincided with the birth of his sister. When a sibling is born, preschoolers can have a hard time adjusting.
Understanding my son needed connection and reassurance, I started telling him a story about some sand gnomes. Little gnomes that magically appeared into a little boys head one night. It took three minutes of telling this cute story of mighty sand gnomes, castles and the special powers of soap and water to change our situation around.
My goal was to get hair washed, my son needed some extra validation and love. Play helped us both. Win-Win! Although it was an added step to be playful, it was nevertheless much faster to help him feel in a bit more in charge of something that was not a favorite event for him. In this process, my son also learned that it was safe to tell me his worries and that we could find solutions together.
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