Thirty Days to Better Behaved Children and a Peaceful Home Life Day 5: Play Time!
Before we begin, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge everything that you have done so far. Even if you have only been able to stick with a few action items, you are making an effort to bring peace to your home and to elicit better behavior from your children. Neither of those are easy tasks! I admire you for your tenacity and hope that you are finding this program to be helpful.
With the weekend coming and spring in the air, I’d like to take a moment to talk about play and strengthening your bond with your child. If you are reading this, most likely you are finding some aspect of parenting to be especially challenging, and you are probably not enjoying your time with your child as much as you might like. This is no surprise. When we are so busy playing chauffeur, party planner, cook, doctor, and all of the other roles we fill as parents, it is so easy to lose sight of how much we actually love our children. Please, let’s make a habit every day of closing our eyes, envisioning ourselves holding our perfect and exquisite baby in your arms. Remember how nice it felt to have his head in the crook of your arm? With your eyes closed, summon the utter perfection that was your child and hold that image in your heart for two minutes. This is helpful for all children and spouses as well. I invite you to do this exercise for all of your children, but, if you had to select one, select the child that you are having the hardest time with. You will be surprised by the shift in your thinking that this exercise will bring about. I invite you to try this exercise every day for twenty to thirty days, again in the hopes that this activity might become a habit. It works!
For Day 5 I would like to talk about using play to strengthen your relationship with your child. Devoting fifteen to twenty minutes a day with your child communicates your love and dedication in an active, real way that your child can understand, I am a big believer in the concept of “Floor Time,” which was made popular by Stanley Greenspan, a noted child psychiatrist. He discovered that when parents or therapists sat on the floor with a child on the Autistic Spectrum, they could enter their world and make a connection with the child through play. The only real rules were that the adult had to be giving the child his or her complete attention, following the child’s lead, and to be willing to suspend all judgment and other thoughts beyond the play.
I initially used Floor Play to relate to my eldest son, who, at the time was basically non verbal and Autistic. It absolutely worked and I was delighted about the improvements in his mood, behavior, and general level of relatedness. Over time, I realized that Floor Play could and should be as effective with neuro-typical children, particularly in making a deeper connection with parents. So, when my children were little, we played everything. House, playdoh, finger painting, Barbies, Pokemon, and anything else that my children wanted to play. I always followed their lead and tried my best not to answer the phone or let my mind wander in any way.
As the years have passed, I now play Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Uno, Checkers Beauty Salon, and we play with these really cool electronic hamsters that I forget the name of. Sometimes the children don’t want to play with me, but instead they might like to bake together, plant flowers, or walk the dog. Recently, I spent a few hours with my oldest daughter listening to Eminem and Lil Wayne, who she is infatuated with. Instead of judging them, I listened with an open mind and we actually got to talk about what we thought was and was not appropriate and what some of the real messages behind their songs were. We had been having a hard time connecting, and this one activity seems to have filled the gap. She said she loved me and gave me a hug, which shocked me and resulted in numerous entries in my Gratitude Journal!
Please consider adding twenty minutes to your schedule (maybe before bedtime?) to play. Follow your child’s lead completely and don’t try to direct the play in any way. If your child cannot articulate what they want to play, don’t worry, just follow them along. For young children you may need to help your child select an activity, and later you may have to be willing to be a dragon, a unicorn, or a Pokemon trainer. What really matters is that you are connecting with your child in your child’s world. I would not suggest taking this special time away as a consequence for poor behavior choices. However, I would absolutely add extra play time as a reward.
Wishing you all the very best,