Playful Parenting chapter 3

I’m reading Playful Parenting of Lawrence Cohen together with Jennifer at InspireMama. Since she already posted about chapter 3, I will somewhat refer to her posting here.

As she mentions, the chapter is all about connection. My favourite passage from this chapter is: ”[children] need to feel connected and confident before they can make any positive changes. So once again, get down on floor and play what they want to play. With older children, tuning in may mean sitting with them and listen to the music they like and watching the movies they rent. Yuck. But do it.”

When reading this I have been thinking about the importance to spend time with your child. Giving somebody of your time is sort of a precious gift, since it is almost the only thing that you will never be able to get back (I am grateful to Laci Green for pointing this out).

Jennifer talks about the ”love gun”. We play that game quite often in my home. The child attacks the adult with something, like a gun or a spear, but the twist is that this is a ”love gun” or a ”love spear”, so when you get shot by it, you have to love the person that shot you. And the more they shoot the more you love them, so you end up chasing the child screaming stupid declarations of endless love…

The more I read in this book, the more I want to recommend it to all parents. The book is really full of very creative examples of how you can turn difficult situations into play and connection. The love gun is one of these beautiful suggestions of Cohen. It is probably normal for parents not to feel comfortable with their children running around playing with weapons. But this way, by playing ”love gun”, we can meet the child and engage in a play that they like, and at the same time we don’t endorse any excessive aggressiveness.

I forgot one of Cohen’s main rules today. I was laying jigsaw puzzles with my son, and there were two puzzles, so since he prefered not to have my help, I started with the other one, and at first, he wanted to compete, but then I was faster, and I got carried away and lay the puzzle faster than him, which he didn’t like, and I could see that this made the experience less rewarding for him. Probably a common mistake especially for men. What Cohen points out all the time, is that the play has to be totally according to the wishes and perspective of the child. We have to learn to put aside all our distractions and worries and stress and just tune in to the child and his/her needs. That is probably the most important reason why I am reading this book again, to remind myself of the importance of this.

Playful parenting – chapter 2

I am presently re-reading the book Playful Parenting of Lawrence Cohen. Some points I have been thinking about when reading this chapter are:

The yees!-response

The importance of how we respond to our kids when they want to play. I took classes in theatre improvisation (impro) for a few years, and something that we practiced was to shout ”yees!” to every suggestion that we got. Within impro this is considered very important, since it opens up the flow of imagination and without this response the improvisation dies.

This is something I want to practise with my son as well.

I think of  what I learned when studying cognitive behavioral therapy. Most of us want our kids to believe that they have something important and unique to contribute to this world. We want them to have the confidence to communicate their inner world with people around them. We want them to be able to enjoy everything good in life without too much hesitation.

Then we can make use of the laws of positive reinforcement. Reinforcement means that we do more of the behaviors that we get positive response from – like getting a happy smile from an important person. And children have short time-horizons, so it is really vital that this positive response comes quickly, then it will be much more effective. When children come to us and suggest ”shall we play….” we should then respond as quickly as possible and as positively as possible. This will increase the child’s connection-seeking behaviours, which will in turn build self-esteem and healthy social relationships.

In sum, I feel that is that it is only if we can shout ”yees!!” often enough to our children’s suggestions that we can give them this feeling of being of an extreme worth to the world. (of course we might not have to literally shout, but we must respond with a heartfelt enthusiasm)

The other day I was preparing some food, and my son wanted to play pillow-war. And I am really a fan of eating the food when it’s warm, so I was not happy at all about this suggestion. But I felt that it really mattered to him, and I tried, and we had fun, and in the end I enjoyed it, and I feel that this is the sort of parent that I would like to be. (not that I am anywhere close to a perfect parent most of the time, of course)

(Maybe we should also consider using the ”yees”-response more in our roles as spouses, co-workers, managers, helpers, commuters etc, as well.)

Play as connection

Cohen very much stresses the value of play for making a connection with children when they are going through difficult times. I participated in a discussion on an Internet-forum a week ago concerning children that are in a bad mood in the morning. Here one can see a very obvious biological explanation, since it is known that humans have different circadian rhythms, making them more or less tired in the mornings.

But I think that when the morning mood becomes a problem, as it was in the forum that I visited, chances are that the child is also in some way too separated and lonely from the people around her. I got the feeling of not only a tired and grumpy child, but of a child in some sort of conflict and separation towards her mother.

I feel both professional people and lay-people need to talk much more concretely about strategies for helping children who are lonely or isolated. Talking about play as the language of children, makes it obvious that in order to help children become less lonely, we have to learn their language; play.

I also recommend the posting by InspireMama on this chapter.

Playful Parenting – kap 1

Jag har börjat läsa om boken Playful Parenting av Cohen inspirerad av Inspire Mama, en bloggarkollega.

Ett citat från kapitel 1:
”Chimpanser, särskilt vuxna hanar, bråkar mycket med varandra, men de är också experter på försoning. De älskar att bli sams. När två chimpanser har problem med att bli sams efter ett bråk, så brukar ibland den ene av dem låtsas hitta något interessant i gräset. Han hojtar och skriker så att alla de andra aporna kommer över och kollar vad han funnit. Eftersom det egentligen inte finns något där, så går de iväg en efter en. Alla utom de två som bråkat. De två ex-kombattanterna hoppar då upphetsat upp och ner över den låtsade grejen i gräset. Till slut lugnar de ner sig och börjar putsa varandra, tecknet hos chimpanser på att vänskapen är återställd.”

Tänk om vi människor kunde vara så genialiska på att bli sams… på jobbet eller i familjen…

Cohen nämner detta under punkt ett bland orsaker till att det är viktigt för barn med lek – Att uppnå närhet, med varandra och med viktiga vuxna.

Punkt två är att gå från maktlöshet till kompetens och självkänsla. Typexempel är att leka olika varianter av doktorslekar efter jobbiga upplevelser av sjukvården.

Punkt tre är känslomässig läkning. Ett exempel kan vara när föräldrar skäller på dem eller bråkar inbördes; att spela upp situationen med dockor eller byta roller med en vuxen hjälper barn att bearbeta det jobbiga. Viktigt är att skrattets roll, det liksom löser upp knepiga känslor och maktlöshet.

Läs mer av vad jag tidigare skrivit om att leka med barn.

Note: This is the first posting in a series on the book Playful Parening by Lawrence Cohen – I wrote it in Swedish, but the rest of the postings in this series are in English – Please refer to Google Translate if you want to read the post in English.