A few days ago Joshi, who’s now 23 months old, fell down some concrete stairs and bashed his top lip quite badly. I held him close while he let out a huge, gut-wrenching cry with blood coming out his mouth.
For a whole day he didn’t want to eat anything; not even yogurt or coconut juice – two of his favourites. Fortunately breast milk’s still on the menu because it’s all he wanted. When he finally got to sleep he kept tossing and turning and crying out. I felt so bad for him.
The next morning there were watery blood-stains on his sheet and his lip looked much worse. I wanted to give him some arnica pills for the bruising, but he wouldn’t take them. I tried a few different approaches. I explained to him that it would “help the owee on his lip,” I tried a few playful tactics; I even begged a little. (Ok, a lot). You get the gist, right? – of how badly I wanted him to cooperate. I felt frustrated about not being able to get him to take those pills. It was awful seeing him like that, all sore and swollen and not eating.
That afternoon I happened to be booked in for a workshop on ‘Playful Discipline.’ During it I realised that the more serious I was about getting Joshi do something, the less likely he was to do it. Just then an idea came to me of how I could get my kid to cooperate. I felt enthusiastic again and couldn’t wait to get home to give it a go. I knew I had to connect with him differently.
When I got home I gave him a big kiss and cuddle and we laughing and joked around nonsensically. After a while I took the pills out of the container and held them in my hand. “Joshi,” I said, “where’s Baloo?” (He loves The Jungle Book ). Joshi marched off to the office and came back with the book. I said, “Joshi, do you think Baloo would like some pills?” He nodded. I pretended to give Baloo the pills … and then Mowgli. Joshi wanted to participate, so I gave him the pills and he fed them to Mr Bear and to his doll. Then I asked,“Would Joshi like some pills?” Just like magic he popped them into his mouth, looked at me with large, expectant eyes and said, “more.”
There have been times when I’ve used force to get him into the car seat and I’ve always felt so uncomfortable doing that. It felt good being able to get him to cooperate without any force. Whether you’re just wanting to get your kid to put on their shoes, or brush their teeth, or get a move on in a certain direction, there might be a playful solution that could save you a lot of time and frustration. A few days ago I played hide-and-seek with Joshi as a way of getting him back into the apartment fast and easily so that I could start preparing dinner. It worked a treat. No nagging, no coercing, no whinging, heaps of fun. It was awesome.
A few things I learned from the workshop:
- Play is one of the most powerful tools parents have and yet it’s often overlooked.
- Play brings connection between you and your child and can be a powerful way for you to resolve common conflicts and challenges and to get your kid to cooperate.
- Play helps children heal from stress and trauma.
- Kids naturally want to cooperate.
- If your kid’s not cooperating it’s often because:
a) they have pent-up feelings (eg. frustration, powerlessness, sadness, etc) which they need to release
b) they have an unmet need (eg. they need to connect with you) or
c) there is something which they don’t understand which they need to receive some information about
- Your kid can release pent-up feelings through crying and laughter. Once these feeling have been released your kid is much more likely to corporate with you. To read more about how you can help your kid to release pent-up feelings through supported crying, read Tears and Tantrums by Aletha Solter. I love this book.
Some Great Books On Playful Parenting:
“Attachment Play” by Aletha Solter: How to solve children’s behaviour problems with play, laughter and connection. This book will help you solve discipline problems with children from birth to age twelve without using punishments or rewards.
“Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen: “Playful parenting” is so important and so successful in building strong, close bonds between parents and children. Through play we join our kids in their world–and help them to cooperate without power struggles.
“Playlistening” booklet – Hand-in-hand parenting.
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