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.
Sometimes I feel that parenting is a skill that does not come easily to me. I read so many great books on peaceful communication and gentle discipline…and then something crazy happens in our house and I am either lost for words or get frustrated to the point of yelling. Parenting is practice and while I wish I was already a parenting expert who always said the right thing at the right time, I am practicing. Everyday.
One trick I do have in my parenting pocket is playfulness. If in doubt I play. Here are a few examples…
A few days ago when I started to feel stressed out that Keeyah was not eating her lunch (AGAIN), I started the ‘let’s eat like an animal’ game. This went something like – ‘Let’s eat like a tiger’ (imitate fierce chewing), ‘Let’s eat like a giraffe’ (imitate long neck and chewing leaves), ‘Let’s eat like a chimpanzee’ (eating with hands) and on and on with every animal and eating style I could think of. Soon she was joining in and eating her lunch– not through force but by fun. I realize with her that sometimes even when she is hungry, her desire for play overwhelms her desire to eat. Therefore she often needs a good enough invitation to start her food and once she gets this, she will enjoy her meal with great enthusiasm. If she is not hungry no amount of playfulness will be persuasive and I just have to drop the issue until later.
I found with my children at a very young age that there is great transformational power in song. I could say every possible command in the English language for them to stay still during a diaper change without the slightest effect. But, if I started singing a medley of nursery rhymes they were either so intent on listening or joining in that I could get the diaper on and they would still be lying there afterwards enjoying the songs. Singing is an integral part of our day that soothes transition times, gets us moving fast to get ready to go out, winding down for bed and almost all things in between.
When it comes to cleaning up I invite my children to join me by singing our ‘clean-up time’ song. The words are simple ‘It’s clean up time, clean up time, clean up time, clean up time!’ Yep hardly a lyrical masterpiece but my little tune is catchy and usually my enthusiasm rubs off and enough that they are hauling toys into the toy box alongside me. If not, I don’t make it an issue, as I try to make ‘chores’ seem joyful rather than…well, chores.
I have always been cautious of tickling of my children. The article ‘Tickle Me Not’ published on ‘API Speaks’ really sums up how I feel about the issue and I highly recommend the read. However, I have realized that my boy, Amarii likes much more rough physical play than his sister. I follow his cues and we can have a lot of fun in boisterous play. Rather than repeating ‘no’, ‘stop’, ‘drop that dangerous object this minute’, ‘don’t hit your sister’, etc, I can quite often simply scoop him into my arms, dance about, hang him upside down and then give him a rigorous body massage. He’ll be laughing and saying (and signing) ‘Again!’ for the next 10 minutes, and whatever issue was present is totally forgotten about by the time we are done.
After an enjoyable bath time when the kids REALLY do not want to get out, (despite wrinkled skin and cold water), giving them a fun and energetic countdown can make the process easier. Landing them on the bed with great gusto, and playing a game of hide and seek in a big towel manages the job of getting them dry without too much struggle.
Noisy games. Funny voices. Exaggerated movements. Silly (or even serious) songs. These all turn around heated situations and make life fun. I know my children listen and respond to me better when they are feeling happy and joyful. I try to remember this as much as possible within the intensity of our days when my energy dips and it can be all too tempting to be overly serious and go down the road to grouchy-ville. I’m still practicing and looking forward to reading more playfulness ideas and tips on how to remember to use them.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: