Playful Parenting Book Discussion, Chapters 1-3

September 20th, 2010 by Dionna | 86 Comments
Posted in Book Discussions, Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Reviews and Giveaways

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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.

Chapters 1-3 Summary

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.

86 Responses to:
"Playful Parenting Book Discussion, Chapters 1-3"

  1. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    I will get the ball rolling by answering the first 3 questions from Chapter 1. Anyone who wants to chime in on these questions, “reply” to this comment. If you’d rather discuss different questions (or a different topic altogether), start a new comment thread :)

    Ch. 1
    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?
    Too often I simply feel too busy/distracted to play. I’ll play – but there are many times I play and do something else at the same time. That’s definitely not giving Kieran my full attention.
    Since I’m home with him, we play different things. He gets on kicks – last month we played trains a lot, this month he likes to play grocery store. I usually try to follow his direction, but I’m guilty of trying to change things up when he does something over and over.

    2) Fill in the blank: Playing with my child _____________. (And how do you want your statement to change as we read through this book?)
    Playing with my child is all-consuming. I hope that I can learn to give him more quality play time (I wonder if by not giving him my full attention, I’m not “filling his cup” enough).

    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!
    Yesterday we watched a friend’s kids. At one point Kieran and his friend got into an argument about a toy – both of them wanted it, Kieran was quickly going into a full melt-down. I tried to use playfulness by offering different toys and then by saying “oh man I really wanted that toy!,” but I think I missed my opportunity (since Kieran was already so upset). They’ve had the same thing happen with that same toy – I wonder if there is something I could do to ward off an argument before it starts (short of just putting the toy away).

    • Michelle @ The Parent Vortex   TheParentVortex

      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?
      Bea doesn’t usually ask very clearly for me to play with her, she normally shows her need for more attention by talking at me a lot, getting in my face and interrupting what I am doing. Recognizing this as a request for playtime helps things go more smoothly instead of triggering my irritation! We normally play blocks, dressup, hedgehog family, puppets or shop.

      2) Fill in the blank: Playing with my child _____________. (And how do you want your statement to change as we read through this book?)
      Playing with my children takes some effort and planning. It helps for me to have a block of time set aside each morning for play, but it can be hard for me to drop everything and play. I’d like to improve our spontaneous play while keeping the balance in our lives.

      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!
      I’ve been uncharacteristically concerned about cleaning the house b/c we have a guest coming to stay later this week, and on the weekend my husband noticed things getting tense between the kids and I. He sent me upstairs to grab a shower and he took over with a more playful approach. It worked! And I was able to think about why I was stressed out and let some of that go, coming back to the kids with a more relaxed approach.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Michelle – that’s very intuitive of you to notice the unconventional ways your daughter wants you to play. I wonder if anyone else has a child who doesn’t ask, but rather “tells” them using other behaviors.

    • Our Sentiments   oursentiments

      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?

      I usually get annoyed if she asks me to get down and play with her. I feel tired and worn out from the daily activities. I want to settle down, have adult conversations with my husband. K does not sleep at a set time, nor does it setting routines for her for bedtime work. She is a night owl, that is her nature. I do allow for mutual times we she plays with my hair while I read on the computer. We nurse and she will hum songs while I do the lyrics. We learn Signed English together, and she shares stories with me. We do crafts together etc. Just at night time when all the children are gone from daycare, I would like to have some of my own time, to let me brain melt, this is the time that conflicts.

      2) Fill in the blank: Playing with my child _____________. (And how do you want your statement to change as we read through this book?)

      Is short bursts throughout the day. While caring for other children I know she needs me more after they leave. I know this, it’s something that I have never achieved – balance.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        It would be so hard to play with your own child after playing with other children all day as an occupation.

        Do other mamas have some suggestions here?

      • Maybe reserving one special game that only LO gets to play. Something that mom can look forward to?

      • Kelly

        I did home daycare for a couple years and it is so hard! I give you a lot of credit. When the kids would leave I would want to get the house in order (for the next day), dinner, bed… What if you set aside a specific time after the other children leave that you commit to playing with you LO? Even if it is just 30 minutes before bed or something.

    • Your response about how you multi-task and play while doing other things sounds just like me. I’d prefer to be able to find balance and do both things but at different times. That way I can give my full attention to play. I was trying to think of a way to say that in my response but didn’t get to it. When I read this it sounded just like what I was trying to think of myself.

      • Our Sentiments   oursentiments

        Thank you ladies for your suggestions, as well as your understanding. Home Daycare does get busy. Sometimes I see the way she looks at me when I am tending to another, it kills me, I almost know how mom’s with more than one feel.

        She is a pretty good child could not ask for more. We can get through this.

    • Sara   FamilyOrganic

      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?

      I generally WANT to play, but then I have one year old twins so they aren’t hard to please. I do get bored after about 2o to 30 minutes and then I take a break. My babies can’t specifically SAY that they want me to play, but it’s always welcome when I play with them. I know they need it when they get fussy by themselves. I usually am thinking about how to get them to practice new skills or learn something while playing. Trying to get them to practice walking more now. I guess at this point I take the lead in play a lot, I’m trying to let them do it more, but that’s challenging with two wanting Mommy’s undivided attention.

      2) Fill in the blank: Playing with my child _____________. (And how do you want your statement to change as we read through this book?)

      Playing with my children is sweet. I just wish I had someone else to get all of the OTHER stuff done while I play.

      3)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!

      I’ve been having diaper battles with both of them every SINGLE TIME they are changed. They don’t want to lay still so it takes twice as long and then there’s poo all over and frankly, it makes me see red. I’m *trying* to pretend that when they kick they knock me over – which they do think is funny, but then when I get back to the diaper changing task they still scream and squirm. My daughter likes to play peek a boo while she’s being changed, so that’s helped. My son likes to be a helper, so I’ve been giving him a wipe to “help mama.” So far, it’s been better, and I haven’t felt like I needed a Mommy time out nearly as frequently.

    • Jaclyn F.   jacmomof5

      I’m late getting in on this first discussion, I was sick yesterday (still am today, but not as bad).

      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?

      There are times when I get really annoyed when Emberlyn (2.5 yrs) asks me to play because it seems she always asks at the most ‘inopportune time’, always when I’m in the middle of something that ‘cannot wait’. On the flip side though, there are times when I’m quick to drop everything to play with her because it brings back such happy childhood memories for me of playing with my Momma. Tiergan (my 1 yr old) will tug on my leg or climb into my lap and get into my face if he wants to play and my reactions to that are somewhat of the same as they are toward Emberlyn. With both of them it really depends on what they want to play. Emberlyn is REALLY into creative pretend play so we do a lot of pretend baking/cooking, pretend eating, we had been using play-doh for that, but when the kids started leaving it all over and Tiergan started trying to eat it and choked once, we put the play-doh away for awhile. Tiergan really loves to play ball and will spend HOURS throwing the ball to you.

      2) Fill in the blank: Playing with my child _____________. (And how do you want your statement to change as we read through this book?)

      Playing with my child(ren) can be tedious and time consuming. I’m a full time SAHM (wouldn’t change it), but there are times when I just need a break and it seems like I never get one. I want to be able to learn how to find total joy in playing with my children, to turn the bad into good and not care that there are dishes sitting on my counter, but that my babies, who are growing up too quickly as it is, want to play and that should be more important to me than the housework (because the housework will still be there tomorrow when they are another day older).

      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!

      I’m a self proclaimed perfectionist. So when things aren’t done to *MY* specifications I tend to freak. Emberlyn normally during the day when the older ones are at school (my 10, 7 and 6 yr olds) is pretty compliant in picking up things. When the older ones get home, it gets stressful because they are trying to unwind from school, I’m trying to get dinner done etc. So when they start getting testy toward each other and won’t pick up, I freak, but Ryan (DH) will tell them “Let’s see how much we can get done by the time this song ends” and puts a song going for them, so they have fun picking up and dancing to the music.

  2. just wanted to comment quick and say I love Kelly’s name choices for her kids! My middle name is Willow so I love that of course :) and Meadow is sweet too!

    I always enjoy reading here! no time to answer the questions yet but hope to come back soon…

    • Kelly

      Thanks Jamie! My nature girls. Not sure what I will do if we have another baby- running short on the ow endings!

  3. kelly @kellynaturally   kellynaturally

    Wow Dionna, Serendipity!!
    I just started reading this book! May I join in the book club?! I’m only partway through chapter one. So my answers so far:

    1) On average, what reactions and emotions do you have when your child asks you to play…

    Depends on what I’m doing/how I’m feeling. Often, after a day of work, I am feeling tired, and not much like playing.

    2) Fill in the blank: Playing with my child _____________…

    Can be fun, when I’m in to it. It can also feel like work. I’d like to change that to more fun, less work. I’d like getting in to play with my kids to be more fluid, more light hearted. I’m not very good at playing creatively; would like to change this.

    3) If you see something headed in a negative direction, try to shift it toward playfulness. Did it work? Tell us about it!…

    Haven’t tried this yet, but I will. Note: while I liked the mother turning the tide at the dance, I also put myself in the shoes of the mother whose child it was, and thought maybe I might feel a bit… almost shamed in a way, that another mom was better able to connect to my kid, or like they were saying, hey, “you’re doing it wrong” I mean, how okay it is to start playing with someone else’s child just because you aren’t approving of the way a mother is handling the situation? I guess it would depend on the relationship I had with the other mother…. don’t know.

    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?

    I think this is right on… mostly.
    Really dependent on the age of the child. If my 6 year old is being obnoxious to another person, and that person has asked her to stop, and she doesn’t, then I’d likely step in & insist the behavior be stopped or she’s have to separate from the situation (I do not force time-outs, but I do strongly encourage them by saying something like, “I see you’re really frustrated now, and you’re hurting this person’s feelings, I suggest you take some time to calm down & return when you’re feeling more like being around people). If it were my 3 year old, playfulness would be more appropriate, as there is far less awareness and self-control there… as well as far less tolerance for the length of description of behavior & expectations as my 6 yo) There are varying levels of misbehavior though, with both kids. Throwing a rock at someone, yeah, not going to play with that. Toying with the idea of throwing a rock at someone, i.e. threatening to do so, then yes, play could appropriately divert that situation.

    I’m interested to see how/if my persepctive changes on this. I’ve never liked punishments, and have always leaned more towards redirection, empathy, changing the scene, or moving myself away from the situation, though as my children are getting older, parent-directed consequences have come more into play in our household. But I’m trying to find a balance. I don’t like giving a punishment without the childs’ input and real chance at having a choice to change the behavior before a punishment.

    What I mean is, if a child is gravely misbehaving, I can’t expect them to have full ability to change their behavior at that moment, so I’d rather wait out the storm, then talk with them, and perhaps decide on a consequence or change of behavior together, rather than issueing a punishment in the midst of the storm… because they just dont’ have the ability to stop a tantrum in the midst of a tantrum – who can change on a dime?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I would love for you to join us!
      re: intervening – I read a great article on this recently, check it out:
      Here is a snippet: “There seems to be a common assumption in our society that intervening on behalf of a child in a public place is necessarily hurtful and critical. It need be neither. There is a world of difference between officious, hurtful criticism (“How dare you treat your child like that?”) and helpful intervention done in a caring way (“It can be really hard to meet their needs when you’re so busy. Is there anything I can do to help?”) There is nothing inherent in intervention that requires one to be offensive. The sheer act of offering assistance to the parent, or comfort to the child, need have no offending qualities at all.”

      I love what you say about stopping in the midst of the behavior – you are so right. I have a very hard time calming down quickly when, say, my husband and I are arguing.

    • Michelle @ The Parent Vortex   TheParentVortex

      Hi kelly – re: your comment about using play with more serious misbehaviour. I think you’re right on with not using play in the moment. I have found that some misbehaviour can be a child’s way of saying she needs more attention! Giving them playful attention at that moment may certainly be inappropriate, but trying to get in more positive playful time together later that day or the next day tends to help my daughter improve her behaviour. And yeah, this really does depend a lot on the age of the child.

      • This is a good point of discussion. If my child were say making fun of another kid I don’t know that a game, in the moment, would be appropriate. Unless it was a game that distracted her from that activity?? That would then likely be appropriate but as an onlooking parent I might think “why isn’t that mom telling her kid not to make fun of others?”. I don’t know, I feel like I need to put more thought into this or read more examples. I probably just don’t have the right example of making it work, i’m sure there is a a way to use play :)

  4. Heather   xakana

    I’m guilty of getting tired of playing the same thing over and over. I feel so tired so much of the time that I want to be doing my own play rather than playing with the kids and I don’t feel I do it enough.

    It’s typically a success when I use play as a form of teaching/getting through a situation, but I’ve been doing more talking and less playing lately and I feel I’m clearly wasting my time, which I’ve always felt at this age. A few short sentences penetrate, but long spiels are just us pontificating as far as kids are concerned.

    I haven’t got a lot of conflict with my older one (that I don’t start, to be honest) and my little one already turns everything into a game (which is so frustrating when trying to teach her not to do things like headbutt–or even touch–the LCD t.v.).

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      It’s definitely an *effort* to play something over and over. This morning Kieran wanted to play trains. I spent 30 minutes on my hands and knees going around that flippin’ track, and when I got up to take a break, he pestered me incessantly to sit back down. (I suppose I should be flattered that we had so much fun that he didn’t want it to end??)

      It is hard to play (esp. the mind-numbing endless over and over games) when we have so many other interesting distractions. I have to force myself to turn everything off.

      Does anyone else have tips on how to get into the mindset of playing?

      • Acrophile

        Regarding your son’s taking issue with you having a break from train play: I remember in the teleseminar, Dr. Cohen did say you can set limits on even “Special Time” play. Perhaps next time you can set a timer (do you have any idea how long you played before needing a break? Use that amount of time maybe) and “let the timer be the bad guy instead of you.”

        I have no idea of how to get into the mindset of playing. I’m way too grown-up (something no one ever thought would happen to me!) these days. While reading the online preview I did have the insight that I needed to get my “Peter Pan Syndrome” back a bit. I used to be the kind of adult other adults envied because I was *never* afraid to be silly, climb, roll on the floor with kids, act like an Orangutan, etc. Now I think I’ve let “adulthood” take too much of a hold on me. Do you or does anyone else have insights on how to do that when Life In General demands so much energy and thought? We can’t very well let our other responsibilities fall by the wayside. How do we get this balance? Our kids need play as much as they need a home. Can’t let the mortgage be late; can’t let the kids go without effective play. Sometimes the two are mutually exclusive. How do we get around that impasse when it happens???

      • I would love some tips on this as well. I have a friend who plays as a living, she works in early childhood development and plays to teach kids new milestones. She was playing with my LO, for fun, and she just did the same thing over and over and over. LO loved it and I was sitting there wondering how she had the patience. I would love to emulate that. I should ask her.

      • sara

        roger that about the effort it takes to play the same thing over and over!!
        d’s 14 months old and his motto is: once is fun, twice is more fun, five hundred times is the most fun.

        i have to splash some proverbial cold water on my face when i find myself wanting to shift gears and do something else instead of play with him… it’s not always effective and sometimes i give in to whatever else is pulling me in the other direction but i try to just stop and think for a minute: reading the same book 40 times, playing boo non-stop or whatever it is that we’re doing is SO FUN for him. he’s seriously STOKED, totally in the moment, loving it. is something else *really* more important? i have to remind myself that it’s not always going to be like this and i have to (at least try) to be as present with the moment as he is… dishes/emails/errands can all wait… he’s more important and he’ll shift gears himself soon enough and we’ll be on to the next thing or i can get him situated with something fun a little later and i do what i need to do then…
        it’s hard, though!
        reading the same 15 page board book over and over again?
        it gets old.
        but he loves it…
        but it gets old… but he loves it…
        and so it goes!

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        @Acrophile/RedPowerLady – re: balance – I don’t think there’s any easy answer. One thing that I could use more of (and probably ALL of us could) is time to recharge our own batteries. Even when I’m overwhelmed by stuff, if I have taken time for ME, I’m more able to connect with Kieran (and Tom).

        What about you other mamas – how do you find balance and your inner child when life stresses you out?

        @Sara – so true! I need to have a sign somewhere that says “this too shall pass.” Not just for the challenges, but for the neverending games ;)

      • Kelly

        This is terribly hard for me- I let my compulsive have-to-do list get in the way. I am always willing to get down and play, but it is for a limited window and I dont find myself fully present in the play. I think that it takes practice, just like being present in any life moment does.

      • Heather   xakana

        I’m that same kind of adult. I never had this problem with my nieces, but I’m older now and worn out, lol.

        Lilly (my almost-4-year-old) has the same problem with me leaving after playtime. I like the timer idea and I suppose I could set an alarm on my phone for it.

        Yesterday I spent an hour finishing her build a bear with her and decorating and playing and when I got up when it was done to go stretch out my sore back and take a break for me, Lilly ran after me, “Wait, Mommy, don’t gooooooo!” I explained how long I’d sat with her and that I needed to do something else, but she was still really disappointed. Same as later after I got worn out with ‘flying’ them on my feet and flipping them on the bed. She always wants me to stay and keep playing.

        I can do short spurts of play through the day and I have no problem getting down and rolling around or climbing on the playground equipment at the park, etc. But it never feels enough by her response and I think that’s part of what’s putting me off and making me reluctant, perhaps even resentful, of our play.

        Setting the alarm might help us if she can accept it, by letting her know ahead of time that playtime is almost up (by setting it for 5 minutes less than I think I can play, then snoozing it and letting her know at the beginning that it will go off twice and then Mommy’s done).

        I may try that during our next play session :D

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        @Heather/Kelly – I kind of like the idea of the timer too. Heather – when Lilly ran after you, I wonder if that neediness would be alleviated by a regular “get down on the floor and play for ___ minutes” time every day. So she expects it, she can trust that it will happen, and you’re “filling her cup.”

  5. I have a question, is there a gentle parenting suggestion for how to get my 11 month old to stop bolting for the door every time we’re at work? He is quite adventurous, which is wonderful, but he likes to crawl to the door of the shop I work at and down the hallway, and every time I pick him up and bring him back, he cries and tries again. When I try a firm “Jacob, no. Come here.”, he just smiles devilishly at me and goes down the hall. I know he’s playing and just wants to be chased, but I wasn’t sure if anyone had any good suggestions for how to get him to listen a bit better in those situations. Not sure if there is a good way, to be honest, with a crawling, curious little man! :)

    (Dionna’s note): This comment was actually posted on a different post, but I thought it would get some more answers during our discussion today!

    • Acrophile

      What about picking him up, tickling him, putting him back down *inside* your shop (closing the door) and saying “I’m gonna get you!” and playing chase *inside*?? If he goes for the door, a cheerful “Uh-oh! Gotta stay inside! This way, sir! Over here! I’m gonna get you!” …or you could try taking a turn as the chase-ee. “Can’t catch me!” Of course after a brief and very slow (for you) exaggerated run, he catches you and you make a big deal out of it “Oh, you got me! You’re so fast! Now it’s my turn! I’m gonna getcha!”

    • Jess   sweetlikemaple

      If you think he wants to be chased, maybe you could turn him around when he reaches the door, and try to playfully say “watch out, I’m going to get you!” and show him that you’re coming after him.
      I don’t know if this will help with such a young adventurous guy. I tried something like this today to help redirect my almost-2 year old, and it worked great! But at 11 months my little man was much more into exploring on his own than playing with me, it seemed.

    • I’m thinking a non-playful approach is to simply block him from the door, if that is possible? I know you said your in a shop so you can’t block the door itself.

      I wonder if imaginative play would work. Saying there is hot lava or a monster outside the door. So when he gets close the monster sees him…. type of thing. I’m not sure how well an 11 month old could comprehend that?

      Or instead of rewarding him with attention when he goes for the door, reward him when he walks toward you.

  6. Lissa Metzler   metzillblog

    Chapter 1 questions

    For the most part I enjoy playing with my 10 month old son. There are times when I just want to play a quick round of Scrabble on my phone or fold some laundry and he would much rather I was playing with him. I usually stop and then play with him and later do what I wanted too. Play is often involves me stacking block and him knocking them down or climbing on me. Hopefully we can continue to play easily as he gets older. I would like to find a balance where I can work on the computer or clean the kitchen with him nearby and then go join him when I’m done. We’ll see how this goes as he gets older.

    Jensen has difficulty at times getting into anywhere he has to be strapped in. For example, he doesn’t always like his car seat so my husband and I sing and that helps. He doesn’t like being in his highchair so at the end of every meal when he’s starting to get crabby we read him a book. Little things like this help a lot. When I see him starting to get crabby I will take him to another room and start playing with him and that usually improves the situation.

  7. I hope you don’t mind if I start by answering one chapter’s questions at a time.

    Chapter One:

    1) I have a seven month old so a majority of our non essential time is play. But sometimes, especially lately when I feel the mounting need to actually get some stuff around the house done (I’ve put off housework for the first six months and it is starting to get bad), I get a bit frustrated when baby is all about play and I feel I need to be doing something else. I’m struggling to find a balance and get a routine (not schedule) going. When this isn’t the case I am overjoyed to be with her, playing or just cuddling. And the thought of thinking of new games etc.. is so enjoyable.

    2) Playing with my child is a roller coaster. By this I mean sometimes I find immense pleasure in it and other times I’m frustrated that it is all consuming. And I have huge guilt when I feel the latter. Over time I’d like to figure out a way to meet both our needs even if that means changing mine so that my mommy guilt is gone.

    3) I loved that example. I think the world would be a happier place if we could all step in every once in awhile and help out like that. But to answer your question I can honestly say that with my seven month old play does solve a lot of problems.

    4)I’m a big believer in positive reinforcement and as such I don’t find play as a reward for punishment. It doesn’t bother me in the least. I worked with youth in counseling and my role essentially was to play with these youth to help their “problem” behaviors. I saw first hand how useful it was.

    5)This is a great question. My daughter for the last few weeks has been getting frustrated because she wants to type on the computer. Sometimes I let her and sometimes I don’t. I just started meeting moms in my area but until now the computer was my only way of connecting with other moms. I’m not sure how to turn this into play. Normally I just shut the computer and try to focus on my daughter but she will want to play with it even after I do that. I could use some ideas on this!

    6) I feel like the games that make us closer are the ones that aren’t teaching games or games that are planned but the spontaneous times I play with her just to see her smile and laugh.

    I’ll answer more of the chapters soon. Thanks for organizing this.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I don’t mind at all!
      For household stuff – do you have a carrier that you can put her on your back? The only time I could really get anything done when Kieran was that age was to wear him, and he liked it just as much as when I played with him. They are entertained by everything – it’s all new!
      re: computer – we did Baby Smash with Kieran, it was a HIT!

      • I have an Ergo Sport. I have tried the BW’ing front while getting stuff done and it is really burdensome to the point I get frustrated quickly. I have not tried the back carry yet, it kinda scares me since I wouldn’t be able to see her. Maybe I need to get over that or just practice more with the front-wearing. I mean I got the Ergo so I could use it both outside and inside.

        Thank you for the baby smash link! Woot!

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I was scared of back carries at first too, but once I got used to them I LOVED them!!

    • Kelly

      I just started putting my 5 month old in back carries to get things done. I know what you mean about the front carry being challenging when trying to do chores. She likes the back carry for a bit, but I have to be careful not to bonk her on a door frame while wheeling around!

    • Heather   xakana

      I gave my daughters their own (broken) keyboards. I have a bad habit of breaking them, so when they’re broken, I pull out the cord (if applicable) and it becomes theirs. My 3 year old wants to type her name and her friends’ names over and over. Smart little kiddilies know a real device from a broken one, though >_< Sometimes they're fine with theirs, sometimes they want mine. It's more of a problem with my older one. When she was smaller (16-28 months or thereabouts), I set up a little desk and pretend computer (with real non-working keyboard) right next to me so she could pretend to be doing the same things as I was.

      Dionna's link looks like a great idea if you're okay with him having some keyboard time :) With my second, I just made my keyboard off limits and she's pretty good about it.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        We gave Kieran an old keyboard too. When he’s in the mood to pretend, it suffices. But usually when he wants to type, he wants the real thing ;)

  8. Acrophile

    “Playing with my child ________” … Often frustrates me. My four year old daughter changes her rules, grabs things and gets very rude. I don’t know what to do with that (like another little kid!). I often find myself telling her “if you do this with your friends at school they will not want to play with you. They will want to play with children who ask politely, wait their turn and don’t grab.” Then it’s not play, it’s a lecture. Ack! I’d like to figure out a way to give her that message through play instead of with a lecture, but I have no idea how.

    I did just today find myself in a situation that could have gone south, and I used play to turn it around. The fam (minus me! yay! thus I get to post here!) went to the grocery store. In the car, she wouldn’t get into her carseat; she was busy getting in her 19 mo sister’s face (ALWAYS gets my goat!!!). I shifted gears and said “Oh, she forgot how! Or maybe her thumbs are stuck to her hands!” (and I mimed trying to open the other van door with “no thumbs”. This got huge laughs and she jumped right up into her carseat. I said “but if your thumbs are stuck you can’t put your seatbelts on!” And then she – very politely – asked me to do her seatbelts for her. So I did. I like her to feel she doesn’t *have* to do it herself, she *gets* to do it herself because she’s a “big girl now”. So I don’t force that. It’s faster for me (or DH) to do it anyway.

    • Just wanted to say that is a great example!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      re: changing rules, grabbing things, etc. – I wonder if she’s just processing all of the rules/powerlessness in her own life – it sounds like she’s using play as a way to get back some of the power that she feels like she lacks.
      Chapter 4 talks about power, pseudo-power, and powerlessness. Cohen talks about playing soccer with a child who felt like he was not a good player. The child made up impossible rules so that he (the child) could get goals and Cohen was helpless. Cohen pretended to be very disappointed/etc. that he couldn’t play, eventually the little kid made the game a little more fair.
      Maybe if you just played along with her, but acted either clueless or glum about the rule changes – “ah man! Now I’ll NEVER make a match!” or “darn, I was ALMOST to the end!” or “wahhhh! I really wanted that doll!!”
      Maybe through letting her play it out, she’ll be able to release her feelings of powerlessness AND learn that rule-changing might not be the “fairest” way to play.

  9. Jess   sweetlikemaple

    Chapter 1
    Q4: My knee-jerk reaction is that of a behaviorist approach, but I am trying to unlearn that a little bit and be more creative and open-minded. Just these past few days (reading this book) I have seen my almost-2 year old’s behavior become more obnoxious when he indeed wants attention. And as Cohen discusses, wanting attention isn’t a bad thing – it’s normal! So I’ve been more deliberate in giving him attention, especially playful attention that can connect us more. I have noticed that if I do this, and “fill up his cup” then those times when I can’t give him attention – making dinner, nursing baby – he can do okay on his own.
    Chapter 2
    Q2: Sometimes I can incorporate play into a task that needs to be done. Often this is at the expense of cleanliness and orderliness. For instance, I let my toddler help me make salmon burgers tonight, and you can just imagine how messy the counter (and floor) got. But he had lots of fun! Sometimes he helps me do the laundry, too, and I just have to give up on my idea of stacked, clean, clothes, and give in to the giggle fest of tickling and jumping. It improves my mood if I don’t “sweat the small stuff” all the time.
    Q3: I thought that part of the book was really interesting, b/c he said that isolated play is often repetitive. I think he’s on to something. Today I saw my toddler doing something I have asked him not to, and instead of responding the way I usually do by asking him to stop, and then getting upset, I instead said “You can do that all you want, as long as you don’t jump up and down!” I said it in a goofy voice and it got his attention. He saw my smile and started jumping up and down, and so did I, and we ended up giggling and jumping for quite a while. The previous action was abandoned and forgotten. In this case I didn’t actually do the thing he was doing, but I got involved with enthusiasm and simultaneously redirected.

    • What a great example!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Ah, cleanliness. That is something I have REALLY had to work on letting go of. But when I spend more time letting Kieran help (and less time worrying about whether the end result is perfect), things are just smoother sailing.

      Good for you for getting him to switch activities playfully!!

  10. sara

    i’m excited about this discussion!

    i’ll just touch on a couple things…

    playing with my child: requires presence.
    sometimes i find myself needing to really make a conscious choice to be present at play time…
    i try really hard (sometimes to no avail) to really pour myself into what we’re doing – when i’m looking at my google reader list on my phone while we’re playing i know i’m not giving D the attention he needs or deserves.
    sometimes i just look at his sweet little face and i know all he wants is my attention.
    that’s it. can’t i just give it to him?! (i wish the answer was always yes… )

    playfulness has turned the tide for me, too!
    the other day at the park, D was on the swings and i found myself checking the time, getting kinda bored of being there, thinking about leaving but feeling lame because we hadn’t really been there that long and i knew D would be really happy to hang out and play longer.
    so i totally dove into playing a game with him on the swings – i let his feet bump into me when he’d swing towards me and i’d pretend to be bonked and i would jump back and act surprised and he was howling with laughter. it completely changed my experience at the park – instead of being bored and not present in our time there together but staying and just going through the motions, i decided to dive in and made the time we were there the most fun it could be for BOTH of us… and we both had such a blast.

    the times that i have fully and completely embraced play are always the best.
    there are always (daily!) times i feel a tug to get something done, though – and i just try my hardest to make it fun for D, too.
    it takes longer to get the task completed – singing and being silly while doing dishes while he watches from his chair isn’t the most effective way to get ’em done, it takes more effort and sometimes i reeeeeeally have to muster up that effort but he’s happy and i’m feeling productive.
    so even if i’m not pouring 110% of myself into play, i still try to meet him half-way and have it be (hopefully at least a little) entertaining for him.

    of course there are moments where he’s hanging on my whining to be picked up and paid attention to and i’m trying to finish “just one thing!”… sigh.

    i would love to read more thoughts on the 4th question posed – about “misbehavior” being “rewarded” by play.
    i agree that the age of the child has a lot to do with it… and i totally agree that if things are getting (or have gotten to) a certain level that it’s very often a cry for attention… my first reaction was that going straight into playfulness would reinforce behavior – but in my heart in know that’s not true.
    it’s just something i know i need to wrap my head around.
    one more reason these discussions are great!

    xo sara

    • Sara – I struggle with presence as well. I find that when I’m out of the home I’m still doing great. But inside the home I find myself getting bored quickly, or trying to multi-task and play. I’ve developed some serious mommy guilt over this issue. I think I just need to find a way to have enough time to do what I enjoy so that I can completely be present for the play time. I don’t know.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I agree that some of our best times are when I let myself go during play and really get into it. If only it were that easy to remember when I’m not feeling motivated to get down on the floor with him!

      re: misbehavior. I think a lot of it has to do with a complete paradigm shift – remembering that so much of our children’s “misbehavior” isn’t them trying to be “bad,” or frustrate us, etc. – it’s usually age appropriate, and they’re simply using behavior to communicate. Many children – even verbal ones – can’t/don’t/won’t tell us “mama, I’m hungry” or “I’m tired.” Instead, they pull the cat’s hair.
      Do we PUNISH their communication that they’re hungry? No. We help them communicate with us in a way that is more socially acceptable and meet their needs.
      That’s what I try to tell myself, anyway :)

  11. Kelly

    It seems as though most of us have a hard time really diving into play and being fully in the moment. I wonder how much of this has to do with how our brains are developed. Is it fair to say that “childs’ play” is difficult for an adult because it is just that- a child’s? Is it in part the point at which our brains have developed to that makes it hard for us to play?

    • Michelle @ The Parent Vortex   TheParentVortex

      great question! I think there are lots of reasons why adults find it harder to play the way kids do – we have more responsibilities, we are more self-conscious, and many of the things kids find fascinating are just not that compelling for adults. I’ve found playing with my 4yo getting so much easier now that she is more able to play “make believe” games, and we can invent cool secret trap doors and play dancing ballerinas, etc.

      I think another reason why it can be hard for an adult to play on a kid’s level is that it’s hard to let go of the reins and let the child lead, especially if they don’t seem to be leading the play anywhere. I find it hard to cope with unfocused play when I know there are lots of things on my to-do list…

      • I think for me one of the hardest parts is being present completely. I feel as if so much gets in the way mentally, stuff that needs done, boredom, wondering if LO is having enough fun, should I be doing it differently, should it be more or less time, was that the mailmain?, oh no she’ll poke herself with that, etc… It’s hard to shut all that off and just relax and play.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I agree with all the Michelle said, I’d also add that I believe it partially depends on how our parents/caretakers played with US when we were children. If your parents were comfortable getting down and being silly, you’re probably going to be more likely to do it with your own kids.
        Look at it this way – by being fully present and playful with your children, you are setting them up to be healthy/playful parents to their own kids some day!

  12. Alyson

    Hi there! (joining in late)
    I agree with sara about question #4 — it is somewhat difficult to wrap my mind around the idea of responding to some types of “infuriating” behavior with play. My daughter is 18 months old, and she is really trying to demonstrate her will and independence. I realize that this is a normal, healthy phase in development. It’s the whining and demanding, persisting in doing things that I tell her not to do — these are the kinds of behaviors that frustrate me and I want to gently teach her better ways of communicating and behaving. This book has brought to my attention to the fact that often these behaviors are really just requests for my attention. But if I jump in and play with her at those moments, am I legitimizing the “misbehavior” and telling her it is okay to behave that way to get my attention?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Alyson – you’re not late, we’ll talk about the 1st 3 chapters all week before moving on to the next 3 on Sept. 27 :)

      When Kieran got into that stage of toddlerhood – asserting independence, etc., one of the biggest things that helped me is to adjust my thinking – I tried to take “no” out of my vocabulary. I made the house toddler-friendly, and I reminded myself over and over that what he was doing was healthy, age-appropriate, and perfectly acceptable. So many of the things parents say “no” to or call “misbehavior” are really just things that inconvenience us. But think about the wonderful experiences he could have if you just let him play/explore – think of all the rich, new connections that are forming in his brain by DOING instead of being told “no.”

      Also, in the Hand-in-Hand teleseminar that Dr. Cohen gave last week (I think this was where I heard it), he said something to the effect of: don’t be worried that playing instead of punishing will reinforce the “misbehavior.” Our kids aren’t pigeons, focused only on getting a piece of bread. They are intelligent beings, and their main goal oftentimes is communication and connection – they love you, they don’t want to annoy you, they want to connect with you!

      • Alyson

        Thank you, Dionna. That is great advice. I would LOVE to stop saying “no” and I will try. I guess up until now we haven’t made the house as toddler-proof as we could have, thinking that instead we’ll teach her not to climb on things, etc. We thought that would be better for her in the long run, but maybe that sets us up for saying “no” and getting frustrated. I never really thought of it that way.

        I definitely aim to avoid using punishment as the basis of discipline in our house (unlike the way I was raised). It’s a whole new way of thinking for me, and I really appreciate the opportunity to learn. It’s interesting how much of this stuff is both common sense and mind-blowing at the same time. :)

    • Kelly

      As my DD1 came into toddlerhood I quickly saw how many opportunities there are to say no. One thing that helped me not be so no-happy was to ask myself why- why am I saying no. Could she get hurt? Well, how hurt? Could it instead help her learn the limits of her body and practice balance or climbing? The book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel has a chapter (that the book is named after!) that focuses on this idea. Mogel says, “By giving them a chance to survive some danger adn letting them make some reckless or thoughtless choices, we teach them how to withstand the bumps and knocks of life. This is the only was children will mature into resilient, self-feliant adults.” I think that this starts in toddlerhood- obviously not with an electrical outlet, but with some climbing and such.

  13. Stephanie

    I’m so excited the book discussion is here! I have two toddlers that are nine months apart in age (not intentionally done that way – one was adopted as a newborn and we found out we were expecting the very next month) so I am feeling challenged in the behavior department.

    I’m just responding to one question from each chapter for now:
    Chapter 1, question 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?

    When it is time to transition to bedtime, sometimes my kids aren’t interested in coming along. Tonight my husband and I each had one ride on our back (like riding a horse) and we rode them to the room. It was very fun and made the whole experience so much easier!

    Chapter 2, question 1
    Play is to children as __water__ is to __life___.

    Chapter 3, question 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?

    This is definitely my challenge area. With two so young and close in age, I feel pulled in two. When I have the chance to just focus on one it feels so simple and relaxed. (Sometimes my husband and I each take one and do things apart because we think they each deserve some 1:1 time.) However, I’m alone with them most days and several nights as well due to my husband’s schedule, so usually I just feel really shredded. I am so tired of the sibling fighting that goes on. I’m responsible for all of the housework, cooking, and laundry, but I feel like I can’t leave them in another room while I do a task because it is just a matter of (short) time before there is a problem. I’m trying some of the Montessori strategies for involving children in practical life.

    As far as what mental notes/verbal reminders I use to remain supportive and responsive – I had a little wooden sign made that says “LOVE BEGINS AT HOME” and I placed it in the center of our house in a space I walk by a hundred times a day. It helps keep my eye on the prize – that LOVE needs to guide my thoughts and words.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I love the idea of putting a sign up. In fact, I might have to incorporate some kind of craft into one of our upcoming “weekly activity schedules” so other people can benefit from the idea!

      As far as being exhausted from everything on your plate + taking care of the kids by yourself, do you have a schedule? I know a lot of people benefit from things like “laundry on Monday & Thursday, cook 2 meals on Sundays (and cook enough to freeze/for leftovers),” etc. Basically break up the work in manageable chunks. I did that for awhile last winter and it seemed to help. I also like involving Kieran in household tasks (when he wants to).

    • shannon

      i love your sign…thats a great idea

    • Kelly

      Just before the birth of our second daughter I HAD to make a sign for my fridge- it said LOVE, PRESENCE, CONSISTANCY, THIS TOO SHALL PASS. It got me through many a troubled day!

  14. Lizzi

    question 1 answer: I make a point of giving our daughter my undivided attention for significant chunks of time during the day, and allow her to totally lead the play. I’ll sometimes show her things, but mostly let her show me. I want to see the world through her eyes and want her to explore and examine her environment on her terms… sometimes this brings up anxiety for her, but I don’t rush in to quell it but rather provide equanimity by telling her its ok for her to have her feelings as she experimenting and exploring. however, when i am tired and need a break and take a break, she sometimes will come up to me and cry and pull at me… i struggle to know what the right thing to do is because part of me needs this break and i know i need to take it, but another part of me feels bad because i’m not giving my attention to my daughter — in those moments her desire to play and my desire to take a break collide and i feel guilt and as of yet have not come up with a solution to that scenario.

    question 2 answer: playing with my child is an adventure

    question 3 answer: sometimes our daughter will get frustarted when we are eating and want to eat off our plates instead of her plate, even though she eats the exact same food as we do, and she expresses her frustration in high pitched ear piercing screams. our response is to sometimes start singing made up songs, or to play peek-a-boo… to to take food off her tray and make a big dea about how delicious it is, at which point she wants it back

    question 4: n/a

    question 5: n/a

    question 6: i think the play we enjoy the most is the playtime we have before she goes to bed. we say bye bye to the toys downstairs and head upstairs to get ready for bed… she has some naked time and loves tumbling over the pillows and wrestling with her dad when he’s home. she enjoys climbing all over us and flopping down… she loves running from one room to the other and us playing catch with her… it generates a lot of laughter and what we notice is that our daughter thrives on interactions with people, and not interactions with objects and that for us is the most significant aspect of her playful personality.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      It is SO hard to balance our own needs with the needs of our children. I struggle with this too. Does anyone have suggestions for Lizzi about how to get a break without the guilt?

      re: food – maybe I’m more lax than some parents, but I rarely have a problem with the occasional times Kieran wants food off our plates (it happens!!).
      Maybe think of it in terms of what she’s *really* wanting:
      Is it a way to play with you? (Oh look, I’m eating mama’s food! I wonder if she’ll get me!)
      Is it a way to connect? (I feel disconnected from papa, maybe by sharing his food he’ll share some of his attention with me.)
      Is it a way she signals she’s done eating?
      Is it a way to get back some power? (Mama changes MY diaper all day long, now I want to assert my power by eating HER food!)

      Perhaps if you let her do it, she’d get over her need? Or is there a different reason you don’t want her to eat off your plate? (I know we often use spicy stuff that Kieran doesn’t like, so at those times we warn him that he’ll get a hot mouth from the spices.)

      • Alyson

        I’m sorry I don’t have advice, but I just wanted to chime in that I struggle with that balance as well. I feel like I *need* breaks and time to do things without my daughter’s “help,” but it’s hard. It’s that bottomless cup that is discussed in the book. That’s when I hear myself saying “no” and “not right now” a lot, and I would like to come up with a better solution.

    • Kelly

      I so know that feeling. On one hand I feel like I am the mom and I need to be the one who holds it all together. On the other hand I also know that if my needs are not met, no ones needs can be. Kind of like the whole airplane thing- in the case of an emergancy, place your oxygen mask on your face THEN help those next to you. I RARELY watch Oprah, but I will never forget one on parenting when a guest said that our children will treat themselves the way that they see us treat ourselves, not how they see us treat others. This makes it so important to respect my own needs and honor my body, but it doesn’t make it easy. I dont have an answer of how, but I can say that your feelings are justified in needing that break.

  15. shannon

    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…this really stood out to me. i tried to potty teach my boy last week and although it started out well, days 4 and 5 were truly difficult and now we are just wearing diapers. my son has started to do that thing where he makes himself jello legs and dead weight and laughs in my face when i try to get him to do something (like pick up a cup he threw or listen to me tell him that it hurts when he bites me). i know there is probably a way i could resolve this thru play, but i dont know how and i am torn. i do not want to abandon the task and i do not want to get angry, but dang that is infuriating.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      My first question would be – is he showing signs of being ready to potty learn? I definitely wouldn’t force the issue. I *would* try to make it playful before totally abandoning the effort though!

      I don’t know what other people’s experiences have been, but for Kieran we relied on a lot of naked time to potty learn. He had to figure out exactly what was going on down there first, then he figured out that he could control it :)

      As far as trying to get him to do something/listen to you – those definitely sound like power struggles that playful parenting can help with! Instead of “pick up your cup RIGHT NOW!” maybe “Eep! The cup looks like sprouted wings and flew away! Who can get the cup the fastest before it flies out of the room?!”
      I had a power struggle moment with Kieran the other day – he ate a snack on the floor. When he was done, I asked him to bring me his plate before moving on to the next activity. He refused. We sat there deadlocked (and my frustration level increasing EXPONENTIALLY) for 15 minutes. Finally, I realized it was MY hang-up. I picked up the plate, said “It really makes mama feel better when dishes are put where they belong. I don’t want to step on a plate!”
      And guess what Kieran did next – he came in the kitchen and ASKED to put silverware in the drawer!!! If I had held out my end of the power struggle, we would have BOTH lost out on that amazing moment of connection. He UNDERSTOOD my needs and helped me address them!

      When telling him that it hurts to bite, if he’s purposefully avoiding you, I wonder if he is ashamed or embarrassed and doesn’t want to look at you – that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t hear you though. I would go with a simple “It hurts me when you bite, here’s a teething ring you can bite instead.” Later, when he’s not emotional/ashamed about it, you can gently bring it up again and let him know it hurts you to be bitten.

      • shannon

        he is definately showing signs of being ready for the potty. we have been doing a lot of naked time for 2 or 3 months now and he understands pee and poo. if he is naked sometimes he will jump on the potty and go or if i put him on there and he needs to go he will go right away…no waiting or figuring it out. but he also pees on the floor or the furniture or his slide…etc. i have had him diapers (cloth) the last 2 days and today when we were outside he ran to the bushes and said pee pee and started tugging at his pants. i took them off and he peed all over the bushes. he can do it, he gets it, but he doesnt like the pressure or doesnt like my trying to push him to do it. thats why i think he would go for it if i could make it more fun.
        he does avoid eye contact with me when i reprimand him for biting…usually i say “we dont bite…biting hurts” or “ouch mommy doesnt like biting” or occasionally i get angry and yell “no biting!!!” but the last 2 days he is laughing and avoiding eye contact and making himself limp. i suppose i know he understands and i can just assume he is listening, but i usually try to get eye contact to make sure i am heard.
        i do try to handle situations like your plate situation similarly…just picking it up and saying something like “mommy doesnt like cups on the floor its messy.” its just so hard to feel heard…like he understands. i havent thought much about bringing things up later (except apologizing for yelling or thanking him for something) because of his age. hes almost 20 months and i just never know for sure how much he gets. i am stoked to read more of this book!

      • Kelly

        As for the plate issue- my DD is so much like that! I have learned that with her if I ask her to do something and say- Willow, when youre ready please hang up your coat- it usually gets done. Sometimes not for hours, and sometimes I have to ask again before bed (at which point she has let go of the power play), but eventually it gets done. Recently we had an empty cup that I asked her to put in the sink- TWO DAYS later she put it in and came to tell me she did. I never made it an issue (outloud, at least! In my head I kept saying I AM NOT putting that cup in the sink) and it got done. Of course these are not pressing issues, just the little battles!

  16. Chapter 2:

    1) Play is to children as good soil is to a garden. It is nourishing and helps create a better plant. Many plants (not all) can survive in dirt but if you give them the good stuff they’ll really be happy and flourish.

    2) I’m starting to struggle with this a bit more. For the first six months I had no problem doing nothing but attending to my daughter’s needs how and when she needed them. I still put her first but now am getting frustrated sometimes because I feel the extreme need to start getting stuff done. It is straining my hubby that nothing gets done and that is causing issues. I am thinking of creating some kind of routine (not schedule) but haven’t really been able to do it. Turning this into playfulness is not really something I’ve had a good time doing. Yes I play all the time but turning the feeling of “need to accomplish” off hasn’t really happened as it is a new feeling that I’m struggling with.

    3) I thought this was a wonderful idea that made perfect sense. Sometimes the key to effective communication is starting where the other person is at.

    4) This is one of the most poignant themes I got out of chapter two. Play for me was very independent and filled with *lots* of rules. I have chosen to use attachment parenting so I don’t want my daughter to be pushed to early independence. I struggle with the ideas of me putting her down too often to play with herself. Don’t get me wrong it’s not that I never do it. I do it so I can get stuff done or have a bit of “me time” on the computer but I feel guilty later whenever I do. So this is an every day battle for me. Now that she requires more interaction I feel as if I’m not giving her enough and I also feel as if I’m not doing enough at home.

    5) Piper seems to want to sit next to me, want’s some more mommy time. I mean she is starting to lunge at me to be close when I do let her play independently. I’m wondering though if part of the issue is that she needs more interactive toys or perhaps the play with me needs to be a bit more stimulating so that when she is by herself she can be more content. I’m naturally quite calm. I wonder these things because I notice when she was at library time and played with legos for the first time (after story) then she sat quietly and played by herself for well over half an hour. Same with when someone brought blocks over.

  17. Kelly

    Play saved us yesterday! We went to the mall to buy DH a birthday gift. A mall trip is a RARE occation for us. DD was thrilled. In one of the department stores there was a display of Chrismas (YES, Christmas!) stuffed animals that DD loved. We played with them and she carried one for a while. When we were ready to leave the store we went to put it back. She put it back easily, but then got the idea that she rather stay right there and play. After a few stern requests I could see that it was only escalating- her sitting on the floor with arms crossed was the biggest clue-lol. Deep breath, smile, cock of head, “You can’t catch me” and I shuffeled forward, infant in baby carrier. DD got up so fast and took off after me. We went back and forth being the chaser until we got all the way out of the mall- me shuffeling my feet and DD2 bouncing away in the carrier~! IT WAS FUN and we elicited many smiles from onlookers. Made my day….

  18. kelly @kellynaturally   kellynaturally

    Okay, so I’m ready to answer question #3:
    3) If you see something headed in a negative direction, try to shift it toward playfulness. Did it work? Tell us about it!…

    Yesterday evening, after a full day of school, then grocery shopping, we were heading to have dinner with grandpa & daddy. Kids (& Mom) feeling a little cranky in the car, understandably – it was one of those days where we hadn’t been home yet, and were still on the go.

    My 3yo drops his lion on the floor – and I can’t reach it safely while driving. My 6yo seizes on the moment to tease him, and crying ensues. What I wanted to do was get the lion. But, I couldn’t. Next, what I felt like doing was screaming something along the lines of, “WE’RE ONLY TEN MINUTES AWAY STOP CRYING AND JUST SIT QUIETLY FOR GOODNESS SAKE!”, which, I didn’t do, because yelling serves no good purpose to anyone. Instead…
    I thought about this post…
    And I started singing (probably a little too loudly at first) the fingerplay, “Little Bunny Foo Foo” from the front seat while driving, along with one-handed movements. My kids had never heard/seen this song before (?!?) and basically stopped in their tracks. They were upset for the first verse, but intrigued. Smiled during the second verse. Giggling during the third verse. And after three full repeats, we arrived at Daddy’s office, cheerful, laughing, and all acting out Little Bunny Foo Foo.

    So… it worked. Playfulness worked to turn around a cranky situation.

    I won’t say it wasn’t hard work… but the payoff was so worth it.

  19. Hi y’all, great stuff! I’m so delighted that Playful Parenting is sparking so many great stories and ideas. Happy playing!–Larry

  20. I’m struggling with the Chapter three questions. I read it and really enjoyed it but with a 7 month old some of the questions just don’t apply. I will get back to the ones that do though.

    When is our deadline for the next pages?

    I wanted to write in and say that Play has been working for me. Baby is going through a phase where she hates diaper changes, hates them. So I decided to try and associate play with diaper change vs. something she hates. So far it’s been working really well.

    Also the babysmash computer game is helping a bit with my computer-grabbing baby. Instead of getting a bit frustrated I’m remembering the game and just letting her play for a few minutes. She still gets upset when I take it away but it helps me not have that frustration at the computer grabbing.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Don’t worry about answering all of the questions – only the ones that really speak to you :)
      I’m glad the baby smash game is a success for you!

  21. Sorry please disregard my question about next due date for discussion, I now see it above.

  22. Kelly

    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?

    I don’t think that anyone has touched on this one yet and it really stood out to me- so here are my thoughts-
    I tried to appy this situation to my life and think it through on those terms. If my daughter was playing out violence using her baby dolls I can’t imagine myself joining in. I think that what we model has such a great effect on our kids that it wouldn’t be the best way to help her move through a troubled place. If it is a matter of stuck play, I would introduce new play themes or materials. If it was a matter of her having strong feelings that she needed to release, I would use wrestling or acting on an inanimate object such as a pillow. If I were to join in it gives her the message that it is ok, and its not. Her feelings are ok, playing with zest is ok, being violent toward a person or animal (stuffed or not) is not ok.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Kelly – Dr. Cohen actually addressed this topic (somewhat) during the teleseminar a couple of weeks ago. I’d asked about Kieran playing “Captain Hook” when he wanted to be “mean.” What I got out of Cohen’s response is this:
      Our kids use symbolic play to transform their aggression. We all have raw aggressive impulses, some of us just hide it more. One of the great things that humans have discovered about aggression is that we can transform it with symbolic play. Children’s play is loaded with symbolic aggression. Don’t get upset – have you read the Bible/Shakespeare – lots of aggression! Joining in the symbolic aspect of play is what transforms it. What will our kids do with the aggression if we tell them to stop? It gets stuck! By joining in the play, you can introduce new themes – friendship, loyalty, repair – have one of the action figures protect the other one, doctor the My Little Ponies that got hurt, etc. Don’t let it get stuck in the hostile/raging part.

      I also remember reading that kids don’t perceive violence/aggression like we do. Ok, I just googled and found this article. It’s on boys, but I think the principles can be applied regardless of gender:

      Fantasy play is not aggressive. A common boy fantasy about killing bad guys and saving the world is just as normal as a common girl fantasy about tucking in animals and putting them to bed. “Most boys will pick up a pretzel and pretend to shoot with it,” comments teacher Jane Katch. “If a boy is playing a game about super heroes, you might see it as violent. But the way he sees it, he’s making the world safe from the bad guys. This is normal and doesn’t indicate that anything is wrong unless he repeatedly hurts or tries to dominate the friends he plays with. And sometimes an act that feels aggressive to one child was actually intended to be a playful action by the child who did it. When this happens in my class, we talk about it, so one child can understand that another child’s experience may be different than his own. This is the way empathy develops.”

      It’s not exactly on topic, but it does support the notion that we can allow some “aggressive” play without fear that it will turn out children into “aggressive” kids.

      Does anyone else have thoughts on aggressive play?

      • Kelly

        I would agree that aggression is a part of being human and that it needs to be expressed. There are, however, ways that it can be expressed that don’t impede on the rights of others (and to children, their action figures and dolls are “others”). Play is the basis for learning, and learning how to be constuctive and productive with aggression are important. Helping redirect the aggression to an inanimate object or physical game would be a better option in my opinion.

      • I guess I believe that action figures and dolls are not “others” and are inanimate objects.

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