Do you want your child to grow into a responsible, kind, confident human being?
Or, do you want her to grow up feeling frightened of authority, doubting herself, anxious, or defiant?
Do you want your child to be happily in bed by 9 pm with confidence that he is loved and safe?
Or, do you want him to go to bed sad, hurting and worried that he is not loved?
Chances are no parents set out to raise children who feel unloved, unsafe and unsure of themselves. Yet, when parents operate from an extreme model of authoritarian, punitive parenting methods they may find their children either acting out more defiantly or cowering in fear and anxiety
I like to emphasize that overly permissive parenting is just as harmful as overly strict parenting. Allowing your children to do whatever they want whenever they want without any boundaries, structure or expectations can set your child up for difficulty in other relationships, trouble in school which will lead to poor self esteem and anxiety potentially.
When parents remain focused on the goal of raising confident, responsible, kind human beings, it is much easier to remain in the balanced zone of parenting.
As the parent, you are the ultimate authority in charge of your child’s health, safety and overall wellbeing. You are the adult and it is perfectly appropriate and healthy for you to have rules established for behavior in your family. How you go about implementing those rules consistently while maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with your child is your task at hand.
You may find yourself yelling, threatening or punishing your child when he doesn’t do what you instruct him to do because you have become overwhelmed by feelings of frustration.
I want to invite you to catch yourself very quickly when you are feeling frustrated with your child’s behavior and ask yourself what is the short term goal (for him to put his shoes on and get out the door on time) and what is your long term goal (for him to grow into a respectful, secure, responsible, happy human being).
Once you remember these goals, it’s easier to shift into your logical brain rather than your emotional brain and pull from your parenting tool-kit. I’d like you to add some playful parenting methods to that tool-kit today.
What is playful parenting and why is it effective?
Play is the natural language of children and people of all ages benefit from play as a means of processing information, bonding with others and experiencing relief from stress.
When it comes to parenting, play acts as a bridge for parents to connect with children so that the short term goal (for him to put his shoes on or for her to brush her teeth) is accomplished and the long term goal (for her to be a confident, responsible, loving human being) to be reinforced.
When you approach a task playfully, your child will be more inclined to join in and cooperate. It is less likely a power struggle will ensue if you entice your child playfully.
Here are some specific ways you can use a playful parenting methods:
- Make mundane tasks playful. Using the examples above, if you’ve determined the short-term goals is to get your child to brush her teeth and get into bed on time without a struggle, turn the tooth brush into a funny character that talks and wants to tickle her teeth. Allow his shoes to become puppets on your hands that talk to him and tell him how much they love to hug his feet. Turn clean up time into a “beat the clock” game or a race and freeze to the music challenge.
- Use silly voices and faces. Don’t hesitate to distract your child from a sullen mood into laughter by turning into a funny character with a funny accent or sill facial expressions. Use masks, hats or other props to transform into a character that will invoke their love for play into getting the task done.
- Blame the clock. Make the clock the authority that tells us it’s time to clean up or time to go to bed. Join with your child in making the most of the time you have left before it’s time to shift.
- Sing. One way I used to get my children’s attention when they were young was by singing instructions to them. They couldn’t keep a straight face if they tried as I made up silly song lyrics to silly tunes to get my message across. And, it helped me to keep my cool when I felt frustrated.
- Have a dance party. Crank up the tunes and dance about as you invite your children to join you while you clean up the playroom or get the kitchen cleaned up together after meal-time.
- Bond through playful interaction. Be sure to have regular, dedicated interaction with your child that is fun and playful. Work a puzzle together, catch fireflies at dusk, go sledding in the snow, play Marco Polo in the pool, carve a pumpkin together, play a board game, ride bikes together. Look for any opportunity to interact with your child in playful ways to grow your parent-child bond.
There will be times when you need to put your foot down or draw a line in the sand when it comes to behavior. You can do this while still observing your loving connection with your child. Also, being consistent and following through with logical consequences for clear violation of important family or house rules is important. But, if you are able to utilize playful parenting methods the majority of the time, the more serious parenting moments will be less often and certainly effective as well.
Children need limits and they need to understand the concept of privileges earned can be removed when needed but generally parents who ensure a playful bond with their kids find that punishment is unnecessary most of the time because children learn to comply and cooperate through positive interactions with their parents.