This chapter is about ”Following Your Child’s Lead”. Cohen here discusses the importance of letting your child be the leader when you play. He think that we should do this as much as possible when we play with children (with the exception for moments when play seems to get into a dead-in or get destructive)
There are very good reasons for letting your child decide a lot in playing. For instance:
- It enhances self-esteem. Since children naturally feel powerless a lot, letting them lead and direct play with their parents, will give them a sense of importance and agency.
- It helps the parent to really receive and enter the universe of the child, with all the imagination, delights and anxieties there. Which in turn will strengthen the relationship between the child and the parent.
- Stepping back and putting your own ideas to the side will also help the child to start expressing him/herself more freely.
- It will also help developing fantasy play and other creative forms of play.
Important strategies are:
- Just say yes – like I mentioned in an earlier post.
- Setting aside a regular playtime. I have to admit that I don’t do this. It seems like a good idea to really make clear that this time is entirely the time of the child, that you are not going to cook, rest, watch TV or answer the phone now, and the the child is encouraged to decide for him/herself what to do.
I feel that this principle of following the child is terribly important, and often more difficult than it might seem. You might encounter boredom, or feel that you don’t want to do this or that, but here Cohen sides entirely with the child – he encourages us to just put aside about our misgivings and fears and just follow our children in play.
When reading Cohen, I have been thinking about Webster-Strattons concept Parent Training. It has become quite widespread here in Sweden, and it also served as blueprint for the even more popular Swedish adaption Komet.
Webster-Stratton is in agreement with Cohen in putting play as the base or centerpiece for raising emotionally healthy kids. But the approach to play of Webster-Stratton is radically different. She recommends parents to just sit beside the child and describe neutrally what the child does. She makes the same observation as Cohen does in this chapter, that it seem to be terribly difficult for most adults not to interfere and take over the play of their children. But her solution does not give room for very much interaction or fun between the child and the adult. The child might feel to a certain extent that the adult is present and interested, but in the light of Cohens book, Webster-Stratton really miss out most of the possibilities of play.
This is a posting in a collaborative project together with Jennifer at InspireMama. She is reading the chapters concurrently and posting about her thoughts. (The book Playful Parenting at AdLibris, Bokus)