The last section in Chapter 5 in Playful Parenting is very important. Dr. Cohen discusses the good and natural consequence of successfully playing with children: tears!
He explains that sudden outbursts of emotion happen because the child has been holding onto a lot of feelings, and the giggling opens the door. What you have essentially done is made them feel safe with you, so they feel a freedom to be vulnerable and release their pain. This is healthy and good!
It is confusing for adults because often it is something small that triggers the intense emotions and we freak out and tend to overreact or reprimand. Dr. Cohen says however,
“If we can just sit with them while they are releasing these feelings, they will eventually emerge happier children… often all that is necessary is a brief pause to pay attention to that burst of feelings, then back to fun play – which becomes even more fun now that the child is no longer carrying that load of painful emotions.” (p89-91)
I echo the author when he asks, “Is there enough giggling going on in your house?”
Chapter 6 is an excellent chapter as well: “Learn to Roughhouse,” which covers a range of sub-topics of physical play.
Why do children wrestle/roughhouse?
– to test their physical strength
– to have fun
– to control their aggression, practice restraint
Why wrestle with parents?
– we can help them deal with fears, anger, etc
– we won’t call them names if they cry or give up
– we will stop and rest
– we can help them explore their physical strength
– we can help them develop confidence
How do we wrestle?
– try to pin each other
– try to get past each other
– they try to knock you down
– they try to get away from you holding them
– they try to get you somewhere
KEY INGREDIENT, dependent upon the child and the moment:
– you pretend to be incompetent, OR
– you match your strength to theirs
– Sense of Power – increase theirs
– Emotional Hurts – help them play through
– Physical Hurts – stop
– Resistance – just the right amount
– Let Them Win
– No Tickling
– Your Feelings – set them aside
When children want to engage in War Play – exploring ideas of aggression, conflicts, alliances, strategies, weapons, violence – adults have the task of keeping it light-hearted and balanced, and including ideas of nurturing and camaraderie.
– Simon Says
– Red Light, Green Light
– Imitate/Exaggerate aggressive behavior in a silly way
– Rhythmic movement fast, slow, left, right
– Singing fast, slow, loud, soft
– Sort by shape, color, size, switch hands
– Obstacle Courses
– Treasure hunts
– Hand-clap games
– Jumping Rope
Benefits to Physical Play
– Child learns how to calm down
– Child learns to pay attention
– Child learns to plan, organize, prepare, persist
Basically, “take a real situation that is hard for them, label it as play, and let children practice gaining control over their impulses.” (p111)
So far, I’ve given a fairly in-depth look at Dr. Cohen’s book. For the second half of the book, I will provide more of a synopsis of concepts. I strongly encourage you to read it and begin applying Playful Parenting techniques in your household.