The Power of Playful Parenting

Do you get frustrated when your kids won’t listen to your requests?  Are you tired of nagging, bugging, and trying (unsuccessfully) to use logic to convince?  Often we can get into power struggles with our kids and urgently believe that they must do what we say NOW.  We may feel like the only option in a situation like this is to use force, threats and anger.  But there is another way.  And kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from play, we can harness the power of playful parenting too!

To illustrate this, I want to share a fun win I had recently with my 7 year old son. He didn’t want to brush his teeth before bed and I tried to be light and firm about needing to do it, but he wasn’t budging and kept trying to run away. 

I decided to pause, take a deep breath and relax my mind and body. This allowed space for me to get creative and find a playful solution. Mind you it has not always been and still is not always easy to do this!

I remembered a fun example that I had borrowed from parenting educator Tosha Shore a few months back about pretending to brush different parts of his body in a silly way – Should we brush your hair? And how about your legs? Oh no, let’s do your armpits!! Etc. Unfortunately it wasn’t working on this night, as if he was on to me!  

So I decided to come up with my own playful version. What popped into my head was, “Oh wait we need to brush the pizza out of your mouth, where is the pizza on the top or bottom, left side or right? And now the garlic knots, oh there’s some broccoli top left! And on and on naming all the things he ate that day. By the end he was hysterically laughing (with a drippy, foamy, toothpaste mouth), did the longest and best toothbrushing he’s done in months, and we had a great connecting moment. 

Ahh, the beauty of getting silly and playful. It could have been an ugly scene of threats and bribes or even worse coercion and force, or it just not getting done. That last one does occasionally happen; when I see from the get-go that I’m likely not going to “win” (and to avoid the first two, which admittedly have happened in the past), I usually just give him a pass and we agree to definitely brush in the morning. This seems to work out fine, as it only occurs once in a while and has not become a habit or pattern.  

Taking a playful approach is bound to have a more positive outcome than using anger or force, and we don’t always have the energy and motivation to be fun and playful in every situation. In those cases, there are other ways for us to remain in control, keep calm and be the strong GPS our kids ultimately need and thrive on. When you see that your kids are not willing, or able, to listen or do what you want, you can use another strategy that Jacqueline teaches – when you need to give in to your child, make it seem like it’s your idea.  So in this situation, something like “OH I forgot, tonight is “No Brushing Night” or “Gosh, this isn’t the magic toothpaste. I’ll add the special ingredient later and we’ll do a super good brushing tomorrow” or whatever you can come up with. 

Getting silly and playful is a way to deepen our alignment with our kids, avoid power struggles and have fun in the process! Where can you use to be more silly and playful? And in what ways are you already doing that? 

This post was written by Michelle Brussel, one of our awesome Great Parenting Simplified Coaches.

You can read another one of her playful parenting posts here.

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