Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play
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.
The Sordid Tale of Mr. NiceSnake and MeanPinkKangaroo
Remember that activity that your child begged to be enrolled in? The expensive one with the expensive gear? The non-refundable one? The one you feel is important for them to attend?
The one that you are, yet again, sitting outside of in your car with a melting down child who refuses to go in?
Being the patient, attached parent you are means you have already listened and connected with your child’s needs. You have gently gone through everything and you think you’ve worked out and through all of the reasons your child doesn’t want to go.
Being the together, self-aware person you are means you’ve already worked through your own attachments to the investment in time, money, and future happiness for the class. So, you can support your child to go in.
And you know that if they would just go inside, they would enjoy it. All of these big emotions will have been forgotten, if you can just find a way to diffuse everything and compassionately help them go inside.
But, they’re not budging. And the loud noise in the enclosed car is burning a hole through the thickest of patient parent veneers.
It’s either yell and coerce or forget the whole thing. Neither of which bring resolution and may very well bring on the inevitable second wave tantrum-including a wail of, “but I wanted to go to class! Waaaa!”
There may be a third option, but it takes a lot as a parent to find in this situation: Play. Especially role-playing will help a child project their big emotions onto the skit you create and away from themselves. Unlike distraction, which has merit at times, playing can actually help a child to understand and resolve their feelings. And it certainly diffuses the parent’s tension almost immediately.
I have two characters who argue about what my sons can and can’t do. Originally, I grabbed two random toys that were at the top of the pile rolling around on the floor of the backseat along with the desiccated apples and stale bunny crackers. But, they worked so well, that we’ve stuck with them. Now, the kids ask me for Mr. NiceSnake and MeanPinkKangaroo whenever they’re going through a tough time.
Mr. NiceSnake believes in my sons. He wholeheartedly, unconditionally thinks my sons are capable of doing anything they set their minds to. He repeatedly says so. No matter what anyone else says, he’s got their back. He’s very matter-of-fact about it, too. He’s rather boring.
The other character is MeanPinkKangaroo. She doesn’t think my sons can do aaannnnyyythththiiiinnnggg. She thinks they should give up because they caaaaan’t! She’s bossy, irritating, and will argue forever. She’s rather annoying.
Mr. NiceSnake and MeanPinkKangaroo argue about what my sons can and can’t do.
The moment the two start arguing (“He can go in.” “Nooooo, he caaaaaann’t!!!! He can’t do annnyyyyththththiiinnnggg!!!!”), there’s silence from the carseats. The temper tantrum has disappeared. As long as I pretend to be completely engrossed in manipulating my two characters, it stays that way. If I turn my focus back to my kids, the spell is broken and the tension returns.
Before long, the laughter starts in the back. They call out things for MeanPinkKangaroo to say or they support Mr. NiceSnake, especially when they get to side with him and defend their brother. MeanPinkKangaroo gets more over- the-top and Mr. NiceSnake keeps calmly responding with unconditional affirmations.
I underplay Mr. NiceSnake to better result. It seems to be powerful for them to hear the repetition and that he’s unflappable in his support. MeanPinkKangaroo, however, is completely exaggerated. Every word is emphasized, drawn out in the whiniest of whines I can muster.
Honestly, I grabbed the toys and started acting out their argument because of my inner MeanPinkKangaroo who was about to yell in frustration for real at my sons. The moment I channeled it all into MeanPinkKangaroo, I felt better. And I was surprised because I thought they would want more from Mr. NiceSnake, but they love MeanPinkKangaroo. I think it’s because she says all the things they are feeling, but are overwhelmed by. Observing Mr. NiceSnake respond without getting riled up about it must feel reassuring, especially when MeanPinkKangaroo says out loud all the big emotions they’re experiencing.
Eventually, my kids will probably ask to go inside to the activity. But, I know that even if they don’t this time, we’re one step closer to getting there another time. I’ve supported them to work through feelings that had swallowed them whole. Most importantly, they have handled the emotions themselves.
And secretly, I think Mr. NiceSnake and MeanPinkKangaroo may be shacking up with the desiccated apples and stale bunny crackers under the driver’s seat
image source courtesy: Psychology Today
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.