Playful Parenting Book Discussion, Chapters 1-3
Welcome to the first virtual meeting of the Code Name: Mama book club! It is so exciting to be surrounded by parents who are motivated to explore ways in which we can grow and offer our children the best of ourselves.
Every week the format for the book club will include a brief summary of the chapters we read as well as discussion questions. This isn’t Parenting 101, so don’t get stressed! No one expects you to write down a bunch of answers and you certainly will not be graded. Just use the information to your benefit and then join in the ongoing conversation surrounding these questions throughout the week. We may not discuss every question, we will see where the conversation takes us. Subscribe to comments to stay up to date on the discussion.
If you find something in the book sparks an emotion, or if you discover you could use some book club advice for a specific situation, please email Dionna. We may not be able to get to everyone each week, but we will do our best.
Your moderators are Dionna of Code Name: Mama and Kelly. Kelly is mama to two amazing tandem nursing daughters, Willow (3) and Meadow (4 months). As an attached, gentle, natural mother, Kelly finds joy in simplicity: snuggling up with her family, tickling a round baby belly, and even washing out poopy diapers! Prior to finding her calling as a mama, Kelly was a teacher with a Masters Degree in Literacy.
And now let the book club begin with our first book, Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD.
Play is the root of all development throughout childhood. From birth, children use different forms of play to communicate, experiment, and learn. Along with fostering growth, play can repair. A child who is feeling isolated or powerless will benefit greatly from the healing power of play. This empowering and connecting with children, however, will only happen on their terms; you must literally “get on the floor”.
While independent play has its place, there are key times in a child’s life when it is important for an adult to connect with them through play. These times include when children have a difficult time connecting with peers or adults, when children seem unable to play freely and spontaneously, when things are changing in children’s lives, and when children are in danger. An adult who can tune into the child during these difficult times will move the child’s state of being from disconnected to connected and will make all the difference in the child’s life.
This responsiveness to the child’s needs is what research has shown to be the key to secure attachment. Securely attached children are, for the most part, centered and confident in knowing that their needs are always met and respected. When they fall out of balance, they are only a play session away from being reconnected and in balance.
Chapter 1 Questions
1) On average, what reactions and emotions do you have when your child asks you to play? When you think about playing with your child? How do you and your child normally play?
2) Fill in the blank: Playing with my child _____________. (And how do you want your statement to change as we read through this book?)
3) On page 2, Dr. Cohen gives an example of a little boy and his mother at a dance, where “a little playfulness turned the tide.” As you read and prepare for our first discussion, be mindful of situations with your child this week. If you see something headed in a negative direction, try to shift it toward playfulness. Did it work? Tell us about it!
4) Dr. Cohen describes behavior that can be “annoying, obnoxious, or downright infuriating” (page 8 ) – not as something that needs to be punished, but that calls for more playtime. What feelings does that statement engender in you? Do you have a problem with “misbehavior” being “rewarded” by play?
5) Cohen gives an example of a situation with his daughter where “playfulness turned a time that used to be full of frustration for both of us into something fun, enjoyable, and confidence-building.” (page 11) Think about a recurring situation with your child that is consistently “full of frustration.” What could you do to turn it into a moment of play?
6) When discussing closeness and seating arrangements during therapy, Cohen says that it is “important to find the approach your child will most respond to – and you can find this only if you’re trying to interact with your child on their level.” While we read through PP, think about how your child responds best to you – what games consistently bring you closer? What playtime activities make your child feel connected?
Chapter 2 Questions
1) Play is to children as ______ is to _____.
2) When you have a task that has to be done, yet your child needs you, how do you handle it? Can you successfully turn these situations into opportunities for playfulness? Are there times when you cannot?
3) On page 26 Cohen describes a play situation in which a young boy was ripping the heads off of action figures and throwing them down the stairs. He suggested that the parent join the child in this play, claiming that “Children need our approval and enthusiasm first, before they can get out of a rut. So even if the goal is to have him stop that violent play, the only effective way is to play it with him for a while, which gives him the elbow room to try out new ideas…”
Do you agree or disagree with this approach? Is it possible to join in the play and redirect the play? How does the concept of modeling apply to this situation?
4) What was play like when you were young? How has this shaped how you play with your children? How has your play experience shaped the types of materials and experiences that you provide for your child?
5) After reading the section entitled Tuning In To Your Child, brainstorm a few ways in which you uncover what is really bothering your child when it isn’t obvious.
Chapter 3 Questions
1) Cohen has repeated throughout PP that powerlessness and isolation are the two main causes of unhappiness in children. Psychologist Abraham Maslow has categorized human need into a hierarchy in which physiological needs are at the base followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem, and at the top is self actualization. Powerlessness and isolation are needs that can be categorized as love and belonging and esteem. Are there times when you child is having challenges due to needs at a different level on the hierarchy of needs? In other words, when it is not powerlessness and isolation that are robbing your child of his happiness, what else could it be?
2) How do you fill up your child’s cup when you feel as though you have little left to give? When things such as work, other children, illness, and exhaustion have drained you what are your strategies for meeting your child’s needs? Do you have mental notes or verbal reminders that you utilize so you can remain supportive and responsive?
3) On page 49 the author discusses how post-infancy connection is often spotty at best. He says that “Not many parents have experienced that profound bliss of deep, loving eye gazing with a child over the age of two.” It may not be fully on the shoulders of the parent, however. Once a child starts toddling, it is hard to get them to stop moving and enjoy sustained eye contact!
TRY THIS: Stare. Don’t just look or watch. Stare without criticizing. Get deep into your child WHILE he is buzzing around and playing. Notice something new about your child. Recognize his strengths. Appreciate him.
How did you feel? What did you learn about your child? Did he notice that you were watching him? What was his response?
4) In the section Unlocking the Tower, Dr. Cohen gives numerous scenarios to show how he has unlocked a child who is feeling isolated. Please consider this scenario and offer ways in which you would try and unlock this child.
Three year old Libby is excited to have a play date with her friend Emily. Just before Emily arrives, Libby grabs on tight to a doll and says, “This is my very special dolly and I don’t want Emily to play with it.” In the interest of honoring her daughter’s developmental stage and respecting her wishes, Libby’s mom tells Libby to put the doll in her room for a nap and she can wake her up when Emily leaves. Libby is content with this answer and puts the dolly to sleep. When Emily arrives Libby is thrilled to see her, however, when the play begins Libby becomes very possessive over her toys. Every time Emily picks up a toy, Libby grabs it away and tells her she can’t play with it. Emily is getting more upset with each attempt to play, and Libby is not giving in.
Discussion Questions for Monday, September 27
The following questions are for you to think about and answer during the next week as you read chapters 4-6; stop by Code Name: Mama on September 27 to share them with the group. Please do not discuss them this week.
If you have been facing a specific challenging situation with your child and would like some PP input from the group, please contact me. Read the “gentle parenting suggestions guidelines” for ideas on what details to include.
1) In chapter 4, Dr. Cohen discusses power, pseudo-power, and powerlessness. Give some examples of how your child has exhibited each of these. For pseudo-power and powerlessness, how have you reacted in the past? How could you react using playfulness?
2) On page 65, we read about the “stop and go” game. Many of the ideas in the gentle parenting series also involve play to avoid power struggles (i.e., brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, shopping). Think of a recurring power struggle in your house – how could you turn it into a game? Try it this week and report your experiences at our next discussion (9/27).
3) Listen for criticizing words this week – either from you (regarding your child or yourself) or self-criticisms from your child’s mouth. Every time you hear yourself start to criticize, stop. If you hear your child do it, express confidence in her. Is criticism common in your house? Is it harder to stop criticizing yourself or other people?
4) On pages 84-85, Dr. Cohen describes some techniques to halt conflict between children. Can you think of playful techniques to avoid conflict?
5) Your assignment this week: lose your dignity during play. Let us know what you did and how it worked.
6) What can you do to bring a child back to playful roughhousing when that child has crossed over to aggression (without ending the play)?
7) If all-out wrestling is too much for you to start with, think of another game that involves physical resistance that you can play with your child. Try it this week and tell us how it goes.
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"Playful Parenting Book Discussion, Chapters 1-3"
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