This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how challenging discipline situations can be met with play. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I'm at a stage in parenting that is just confounding to me. My oldest is now a teenager - starting high school this year! - and truly feels that anything I say must be wrong. Little Guy is driving me up a wall with his almost-3-year-old attitude. I find myself going in a circle with both of them. I start out by reminding myself that I was once their age. I really try to understand situations from their points of view. I explain that, yes, I understand why you want ____, but here's my reason for not allowing ____ at this time. I speak in a low voice, I keep emotion out of it (unless the situation calls for empathy), and I stay firm. This lasts a very short time. I find myself slowly slipping into a angrily slamming things around phase. Then there's the yelling. And, finally, I re-think my position on spanking. That always brings me back to the beginning of the circle and it all starts again.
This can't be good for any of us. My poor husband really tries to follow my parenting philosophies. When he steps out of those bounds (You Have to Play By the RULES!), I am there to remind him to "play nice" with the kids. Then, he watches as I slowly begin to lose it and become the biggest hypocrite ever. The kids don't know what to expect, either. So, being kids, they push it as far as they can go. If I'd had enough at some point and allowed them to do something that I previously did not allow in a slip of sticking to my words, they'll try 20+ more times to get me to allow that thing again. My oldest uses the talking back and stomping around method (we call it "Humphing"). Whereas, Little Guy does the typical toddler tantrum thing. He throws things, screams, whines, stomps, and occasionally hits or kicks. I see where these behaviors come from - me. It seems to them that the louder and angrier I am, the more I get MY way. Heck, why wouldn't it work for them, too?
I've really been trying to figure out how to change this - for good. That is when I saw that this month's Carnival of Parenting hosted by Lauren at Hobo Mama and Dionna at Code Name: Mama. is based on Parenting Through Play. Hmm... Both kids like to play. My oldest loves board games and joking around. And Little Guy, well, HE'S ALMOST THREE - of course he likes to play! So, I have a plan that I'm already testing out and fine-tuning. What if I tried teaching my children the lessons they need to learn (the reason behind 99% of the rules in our home) through playing with them?
Here's how I'm envisioning it (so far):For the Oldest, it's going to take a little work. I want him to become more responsible for himself. His biggest excuse for everything is, "I forgot." And, you know what? I believe him. But it is infuriating when he constantly forgets everything, all of the time. Little things like picking up dirty socks or throwing a candy wrapper into the trash, middle-ground things like not taking out the trash when the wastebasket is full, and BIG stuff like forgetting to ask his coach for the phone numbers of a few of his cross country teammates so he can catch rides to and from meets (first one is TUESDAY and I have absolutely NO IDEA how it's going to happen for him and no coach's phone number- ARGH!) I've tried charts, calendars, planners, lists, leaving post-it notes everywhere, verbally reminding him... everything I can think of. It works for a few weeks, then we're back to me screaming at him and him shutting down. But, with this new trial of parenting through play, I remembered that he remembers conversations we've had while playing games with each other from way back when he was just 5 years old!
- I am going to try to make time to play board games or cards with him (or my husband can) two to three nights a week.
- Before the game, I'm making a list of the things that need to be talked about.
- I'll also search for funny quotes or jokes that have to do with the things that he needs to remember and out them on the list, too.
- Books - lots of them - from the library about cooperation. Books that show how happy everyone is when they use teamwork to get the job done right. Books that explain the dangers of doing things like not holding hands in the street and taking off in a busy grocery store so Mama can't find you.
- He loves playing with his Hot Wheels and often has a lot of dialog going on with them. I'm going to try to naturally work in different scenarios that often end up with me yelling and him having a tantrum, but with the endings showing him WHY I have certain rules. Maybe one would be: "Blue Truck" doesn't listen to his mommy when she tells him not to do something and then he gets hurt. Nothing preachy, no, "Let's talk about what that truck just did and how it pertains to you!" kind of lectures.
- I also saw an idea for something called The "Fix" Game on Dr. Laura Markham's Aha! Parenting. Basically, you take a few minutes out of your day and chase your little one around giving hugs, kisses, and snuggles... Getting your "fix" of your little one for the day. It shows them, very clearly, that you DO love them and gives them the direct attention they need. I've already been doing this a few times a day and I've really noticed a marked improvement in attitude and cooperation from Little Guy. We all need some silly lovin' and, with a kid who automatically goes into negative attention mode whenever he feels no one is paying attention to him, it's so important!!!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- On being a more playful parent — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares how the Playful Parenting book impacted her.
- Parenting a toddler through play — Alicia at I Found My Feet lists some examples of how she uses play to parent through everyday tasks and challenges.
- Splashing in Puddles — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how she learned to get dirty and have fun with her little boy.
- Say Please — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life explains how they taught their son manners by "play," showing that actions speak louder than words.
- No Nanny Needed — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
- I'll Run Away With Gypsies — Nikalee at Spotted Pandemonium maneuvers physical and emotional obstacles while spinning playful tales, jumping through hoops, and inspiring the kids to clean the living room.
- A Promise To My Daughter — Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure writes a poem for her daughter promising to use play instead of anger when facing difficult situations.
- Parenting Through Play — Not Always Easy But Always Rewarding — Amy at Peace4Parents discusses how play hasn't always come easily to her, the power of appreciative observation, and how her family learns together through play.
- Imagination Plays a Role in Our Parenting — Tree at Mom Grooves shares how parents can use play to set the foundation for communication and understanding.
- A Box of Crayons — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction talks about how a simple box of crayons has become a wonderful parenting and teaching tool.
- The Essential Art of Play — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her favorite lessons available for young ones through play.
- The Art of Distraction — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a list of distracting alternatives to harsh punishments in tough parenting situations.
- Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now has ideas for grace and courtesy games that help you encourage courteous behavior without reprimanding your child.
- I am woman, hear me roar! — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares how one simple sound can diffuse an argument in an instant.
- Getting Cooperation Through Play — Amyables at Toddler In Tow talks about respecting the worldview of a preschooler by using play to encourage connection and cooperation.
- Playful Parenting = Extra Energy?? — Momma Jorje didn't think she had the energy for playful parenting. See what she was surprised to learn…
- Dance Party Parenting — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen learned how to be the parent her children need through play.
- Wrestling Saved My Life — Wrestling is as vital to her son's well-being as babywearing once was, finds Hannah at Wild Parenting.
- Parenting through play — By playing with her children, Tara from MUMmedia is given amazing opportunites to teach, train and equip her children for life.
- Parenting Through Play Starts in Infancy — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Issa from LoveLiveGrow shares that though she only has a 3-month-old, playful parenting has already started.
- Play Before Sleep — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how playing and singing with her son before he falls asleep helps calm her frustrations that tend to arise at night.
- Playful Parenting — Or 5 Lessons My Son Has Taught Me About Parenting Through Play — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama has learned to be a better parent by following her toddler's lead in play.
- Hurry up! Hurry up! I mean it! Quack, quack, quack! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life leads a trail of ducklings
- On the Road: Learning to Play — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers her inner adult through a summer of playing with her children.
- Preventing Tantrums Through Play — Gaby at Tmuffin explains how she keeps her household happy by not taking things too seriously.
- Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play — Lily, aka Witch Mom, redirects unwanted behavior in a toddler using games and play.
- Exaggerating for effect — Lauren at Hobo Mama has learned how to ham it up.
- Handling Big Emotions with Role Playing — Zoie at TouchstoneZ plays at tempering her parental frustrations while helping her children handle some big emotions
- How To Herd Toddlers by Talking Pictorially — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama demonstrates how talking in pictures is a playful way to engage your young child in transitioning from one activity to the next.
- Getting a Toddler to Go Where You Want…Playfully — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how a game of hide-and-seek can be used to steer a wandering toddler in the direction of her choosing.
- Playful Parenting: Chores That Do Themselves — Remember chores when you were a kid? If chores were this fun for Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey, she wouldn't have needed any reminders!
- Clown School Express: Playing away Fears — MudpieMama describes how she helped her boys confront their fears about starting kindergarten by playing with trains.
- Practicing Playful Parenting — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle realizes that playfulness is the best way through the day and seeks more ways to practice it.
- Today, Tomorrow and Every Day — Starr at Taking Time addresses her children in a letter sharing with them how improtant it is that they spend their childhood playing.
- Learning Through Immersion — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares how she helps her daughter develop naturally without focusing on teaching, but rather by immersing her in their family's way of life and making her an active part of her environment.
- Play Here Now — Jessica at Instead of Institutions learns and relearns and tries to remember the value of play.
- Play: A Wonderful Parenting Tool — Mamapoekie from Authentic Parenting offers a list of examples on how to use play in real-life parenting situations.
- Playful Parenting — a Book Review — Erica at ChildOrganics shares simple yet sage advice from Dr. Cohen on how play can change your child's life.
- Mock Threats: Turning Real Frustration into Playful Parenting — Threatening is not an effective discipline strategy, but Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains how parents can turn their frustration into playful moments by making "mock threats."
- I'm Sick of Yelling — I Want to Play — Alicia at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts realizes she needs to change the way she's parenting and is forming a new plan.
- Sing-along, Brush-along Songs — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest shares a few songs to make brushing her three-year-old's teeth more fun.
- Monster Voice — Ever have those frustrating moments with your kid(s) when you just want to scream? Amy at Anktangle shares a silly strategy for getting through those difficult times.