Playful Parenting Book Discussion, Chapters 7-9

October 4th, 2010 by Dionna | 10 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 third discussion of Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting. Today we are discussing chapters 7-9. Questions and scenarios for discussion are below, but please don’t feel limited by our talking points.

Chapters 7-9 Summary

Children are inherently in a position of limited power.  Almost every daily activity is dictated to them by an adult.  having an opportunity to “reverse the roles” provides children with an opportunity to work through troubles, problem solve, and build confidence.  In giving up this power, the adult is free to follow the child’s lead.  When the child leads they can move the play to a place that most benefits them.

Our culture has created clear male/female roles that in many ways limit both sexes.  in order to limit the negative effects of gender stereotypes on young girls and boys, Cohen suggests that girls must be supported in spreading their wings and boys in laying down roots.

Chapter 7 Questions

1) “Benign neglect doesn’t empower children, it leaves them at the mercy of the best marketing money can buy – marketing that doesn’t just tell children what toys to purchase, but also how to play with them.” p. 113 Most of the toys that are out on the market today limit the use of children’s imaginations by having one intended use and little room for creativity to creep in. What types of play materials do you provide for your children that allow for open-ended play and the use of imagination? Are there items around your house that were never intended to be toys but make the best play things?

2) In Chapter 7 Dr. Cohen discusses the importance of storytelling. He says it is a way for children to “heal from their fears.” While retelling familiar stories such as The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks work at times, children often need stories that mirror their scary experiences and have more depth. Are you a storyteller? What are some of the things that make you good at it?  If you don’t feel like it is your strong point, where are you lacking most?  Let’s share resources! Storytelling is an art; do you have a favorite web site or book that has helped you become a better storyteller?

3) Beginning on page 119 Cohen discusses using play to overcome fear. Often times when a parent has a fear they tend to pass it on to their child. It could be as simple as fear of spiders or more extreme like an overbearing fear of the child getting hurt. Reflect on possible fears that you have passed onto your child. How can you face these fears and then help your child face them?

4) Take note of where your child is in terms of fantasy play. How often does he/she use dramatic (fantasy) play? What are the themes in his/her dramatic play? How is this a reflection of his development or struggles?  How can you take the play to the next level?

5) On page 127 Dr. Cohen makes the profound statement that, “Most toys are junk, by which I mean they can do only one thing, over and over. Great toys, like good dramatic play, allow children to make the world of their own and allow full expression of their creativity.” Let’s brainstorm a list of open-ended, non-commercial toys or items that promote free, creative play.

Chapter 8 Questions

1) What was your reaction to what Dr. Cohen refers to as the tabletop studies? Were you surprised by the findings?

2) What challenges do you face when entering the play of your child who is the opposite sex as you are (mothers with sons, fathers with daughters)? Do you find that the gender roles that have been engrained in you get in the way? How do you make the connection?

3) Many of the toys that children have encourage the divide between male and female roles and further isolate boys and steal girls’ power. Are there certain toys that your family does not allow for one of these reasons? How have your children responded to this? How have other family members or friends responded?

4) After reading this chapter take a look at your child’s toys.  How do they block your child from his or her fullest potential (isolation for boys and powerlessness for girls)?

5) Based on Dr. Cohen’s information and the work of others that he cites, gender stereotypes are clearly alive and thriving. As a child do you remember experiencing any of the prejudices that Cohen describes? How has it effected you in the long run?

Chapter 9 Questions

1) This chapter is introduced with the story of how Cohen misread his daughter’s messages when playing a game of freeze tag. Often times parents have to take on the part of decoder in order to help their child. How do you uncover what your child really needs from you? What subtle clues does your child give that lead you to the answer?

2) Doing whatever they want to do can be difficult. It’s not always something you enjoy and you don’t always have the time or energy, yet it can be instrumental in helping your child develop to his/her full potential and work through difficulties. If these are some of the main goals of parents, how can we change our paradigms and make play the priority? What tasks can you put further down the list so that play can move closer to the top?

3) On page 159 Cohen urges the reader to examine his/her practice by separating our fears from actual danger. As you go though your week, take opportunities to ask yourself “why”. Why am I saying no?  Is it truly dangerous? What would the consequences be? Is my child better served by my limiting the activity, or allowing him/her to learn from it? Make an effort to become more conscious of the value of your safety measures.

4) For parents of more than one child, how do you ensure that both or all of your children receive time to play with you? How do you attend to the play needs of one while meeting the needs of the other(s)?

5) Challenge! Create a scheduled PlayTime everyday this week (or at least most of the days).  Decide how much time you will devote to PlayTime and actually write it on your calendar.  Give it a try for the week and share with us how it is going.


Discussion Questions for Monday, October 11

The following questions are for you to think about and answer during the next week as you read chapters 10-12; stop by Code Name: Mama on October 11 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) Let’s discuss “gentle pushes” – can you give some examples that have worked for you?

2) Does your child like to make up games with “rules”? What kinds of rules have you had to follow? Can you connect these rules to something that might be happening in your child’s life?

3) Are you good at turning aggression into play? Or have you ever had a positive experience? If so, please share your tips and tricks with us, or just share that one experience. Let’s all learn from it!

4) What is the hardest part for you of letting children feel their strong emotions? Is it when you are out in public? Is it hearing their tears and screams? Is it not being in control? What do you usually do when your child is upset? What can you do to feel more accepting of your child’s strong feelings?

5) How do YOU handle big emotions?

6) Have you ever handled whining playfully? What methods have been most/least successful?

10 Responses to:
"Playful Parenting Book Discussion, Chapters 7-9"

  1. Heather   xakana

    My kids play with EVERYTHING. Naomi pretends to cook in her little animal’s toy trough with a pitchfork or has Batman hugging Tinkerbell-Minnie Mouse.

    Lilly has this piece of fabric that was from her tent that has little hooks on each corner. It’s one of her favorite toys. One minute, it’s a superhero cape and she’s saving animals trapped in trees. Another minute, it’s a mei tai and she’s carrying her babies in it. Then, it’s an apron and she’s “painting” (she never uses it when actually painting, though there’s no reason she can’t) great works of art.

    She likes making random objects into “tools” to work around the house. If she doesn’t have a physical object that will do, she has an “invisible” version, lol.

    I was not limited in the toys I played with as a child and neither are my daughters and neither will be any sons I might have. My youngest daughter’s favorite toys are cars and balls, just like her sister before her (who now loves anything that imitates stuff adults do, like cooking or driving, putting gas in the car, raking, planting, buying stuff at the store, etc.). She’s said, “Look, I’m making cookies, just like Daddy!” So, gender roles around here are avoided, although as a SAHM, she’s still going to see me doing the domestic stuff while Daddy drives us around and pays (but so do our friends, who are mostly female, so she knows it’s just Mommy who can’t drive.

    Not passing down fears is something I don’t think I can do. I try very hard, but as someone with severe anxiety disorders, it’s hard to do much except show that we keep going even if we’re afraid and don’t let our fears limit us too much. But unless it’s truly dangerous or against the local rules, I don’t forbid play. I let my kids decide which playground equipment they feel like they can do (and thus, my 10 month old was climbing plastic ‘rock’ walls with the 3-4 year-olds and at 18 months, climbed the real rock wall where 4 year olds were still balking and every father on the playground came running in terror as her own dad chased her–she’d just gone up without any warning and he wanted to be there in case she overestimated her abilities–and admired her bravery and talent at climbing).

    There aren’t any rules yet in Lilly’s play that I’ve seen. Sometimes with other kids, but not around the house.

    I turn aggression into play so often I can’t think of a specific example. I just automatically become a dinosaur or a kissy monster or something and crankypants varies in how fast she changes her attitude from cranky to playful.

    I just empathize with feelings the best I can. They rarely come up in public because I try to keep her as involved as possible. When they do, I let her have them and try to talk through them with empathy.

  2. Sara   FamilyOrganic

    5) Based on Dr. Cohen’s information and the work of others that he cites, gender stereotypes are clearly alive and thriving. As a child do you remember experiencing any of the prejudices that Cohen describes? How has it effected you in the long run?

    I DO remember my neighbor friend who was a boy having the COOLEST trucks and matchbox cars to play with. I always wanted some of my own, but I never got any. I don’t know that it affected me in the long run, other than it would have been more fun, but I do try to keep that in mind with my kids. I’m lucky though, since I have boy/girl twins, we HAVE to have both boy and girl toys. They play with each others stuff all the time. I love that my daughter can play with trucks and my son can play with a doll, it’s all available. :)

    3) On page 159 Cohen urges the reader to examine his/her practice by separating our fears from actual danger. As you go though your week, take opportunities to ask yourself “why”. Why am I saying no? Is it truly dangerous? What would the consequences be? Is my child better served by my limiting the activity, or allowing him/her to learn from it? Make an effort to become more conscious of the value of your safety measures.

    I have a hard time with this, on a lot of levels. First, I get where Cohen is going with it. We parents do get to a knee jerk “No” reaction a lot of the time. But… just because it’s not dangerous doesn’t mean that my kiddos need to do it. For a while, I was allowing them to pull the books off of the shelf (they are 13 months and just started to walk). Every time we were in their room, they would pull all of the books down. It’s not dangerous, per se, but it is frustrating for me to have to clean up 30 books on the floor multiple times a day (very small room, so I can’t walk in there if there are books down). I finally had to start saying no to that. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. While I understand that it’s important to say yes and allow kids to explore things without fear… I also think that my time and energy is important too. It shouldn’t be all the adult all the time, but it also shouldn’t be all that the kid wants to do all of the time. Although maybe that goes into the over permissiveness?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      re: Gender based toys: I am one of three girls, and we had all the typical “girl” toys. I don’t remember cars, or swords, or trains. It was all dolls, kitchen stuff, etc. Kieran has a great mix of toys – his favorite things to play with are his toy kitchen (although right now it functions as a “grocery store” where we take turns being the clerk/customer), his musical instruments (genderless, IMO), and his trains. So a little bit from all “gender” classifications. He has dolls and doll carriers and dress up clothes, but his interest in those toys is sporadic.

      re: Saying no. Sara, I understand your desire to put your foot down. In a lot of the areas where I just didn’t want Kieran to play with something at that age, I’d either make it inaccessible – thereby eliminating the need to say no – or I’d redirect (so instead of “no,” I’d say “whoa come look at this!”).
      Of course I also just let go of some of my cleanliness expectations AND my fears that something would break or get damaged – and I adjusted my thinking to “what are they possibly learning?” So when they pulled books down, they were learning about gravity, they were learning that they had the power to affect something (both the books and your reaction!), they were learning that pages ruffle in the wind and board books come crashing down (wind resistance/physics!), they were learning that book corners might hurt if they hit you in the face ;)
      Also, it helps to keep in mind that once they do it enough times, the novelty *usually* wears off and they’ll stop. (Although you said it was 30 times/day, so yes, I’d probably put them up after awhile!).

      There’s definitely a line between letting kids explore and being too “permissive.” But at 13 months you probably don’t have to worry about it much ;) It’s just such a dance to find that balance – someone might think I’m too permissive for letting Kieran splash water on the floor, but then I turn it into a modeling/learning experience when I get down and help him clean it up (pleasantly). You know? There’s give and take!

      And your point about *your* time and energy being important too is SO spot on. You can’t just let the kids tear up the house because they’re learning gravity and cause/effect – the ultimate effect would be that you are worn out and resentful.

      I feel like this comment was all over the place – suffice to say that I empathize, I agree with you, and I hope my few suggestions were taken in that spirit :)

  3. The idea about most commercial toys not allowing open ended play is very interesting. Maybe that is why I feel so hesitant to just buy the average toy.

    Most of the toys in our house allow for creativity, now that I think about it. I never really considered the fact that most toys limit creativity.

    Maybe this idea is behind why kids enjoy the box more then the items that was in it so often?

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. shannon

    ah. i had a hard time with this part of the book. i dont have a lot of hangups about playing with my kids or what they play with. my son is a big fan of his “baby” which i really like because we have another baby on the way and i think it is really weird that people dont want boys to play with dolls, but most husbands are expected to parent their babies. why on earth would it be wrong for my son to carry around a baby when my husband does it all day?
    i do get sick of rough play pretty quick, but i think if i wasnt so pregnant it wouldnt be so hard. i just really dont appreciate how quickly i am out of breath right now and i dont take a stray kick to the belly well right now either.
    as far as the toys he plays with i do get confused a bit. most of his toys other people have bought him…mostly family. i hate that so many people want to buy them those v-tech toys…frankly i dont see why a 20 month old needs computer toys. he doesnt even understand how they work and they are boring. he loves trucks and trains and motorcycles and such so we have plenty of those and he vroooomms them all over the house. then he also like stacking trains and lincoln logs and puzzles, which i think are great. i do not like toys and clothes that are terribly branded, but my family buys that for him and i do let him have it. i also try not to show him how to play with toys. with his shape sorter toys i will help him if he is getting frustrated or show him a time or 2, but i see a lot of people who jump right in to correct how kids are playing with things and i have noticed that some kids will pick up a toy and they have to ask how to play with it or else they seem afraid to play. i really try to let him just do things on his own and not lead him.
    pots and pans are always a favorite of his…they make wonderful hats.
    i also let him run wild with playground equipment…i offer a hand if i predict a fall, but he is really secure with trying new things and i make a special point to really let him try.
    i would love to know what other people do about gifts from the family…why does spongebob have to be on everything? we dont really watch that show because they arent very nice to each other. i dont want to tell people what to buy their grandkids or whatever, but some of those toys really are junk.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      We are pretty firm with my family (the “shoppers”) about what things *not* to buy. My mom (who is addicted to clearance shopping, literally) still occasionally buys Kieran stuff that I don’t want him to have, but it either never gets to him or disappears. But more often than not, she asks first. What I *wish* I could get through to her is that I’d much rather have her put that $2 or $5 or $10 toward a college fund, not some little toy that Kieran will be interested in for about 4 minutes.
      Honestly, I think you have a right as a parent to decide what’s going to come into the house. And as with anything, there’s a balance between being grateful and being a stickler. I’d be interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on this too!

  5. sara

    hi all!
    i’ve been a bit behind but i wanted to chime in a bit here – i’m loving this discussion!

    my baby is 14 months old so what i’m not able to put into actual practice now is being cataloged away to be used soon.

    here are my two cents:

    i’m the mom of a little boy, d… it’s interesting because i have an older sister and my husband has an older brother so we’re both used to having a sibling that’s the same gender.
    creative play is a big deal for both my husband and me.
    we both grew up using our imaginations and playing outside and will raise our family the same way – i think that goes a long way towards steering away from “boy” and “girl” defined play and definitely helps steer away from junky “low-input” toys.

    currently d gravitates towards things that are typically “boy” things – cars, trucks, trains etc… but, as a lifestyle, we make it a point to expose him to lots of things: music, art, food, culture – and toys.
    what interests him today might not tomorrow and i’m happy to follow his lead.

    the best playthings always require input and imagination: blocks, building sets, making cities out of household objects and driving cars through them, setting up the living room to play store/restaurant/school, making forts etc.

    and, for me, those are the types of activities that would be easiest for me to really engage in, get lost in because it’s fun and imaginative… i’m really looking forward to more of that as d gets older! such a great (and fun) opportunity to use the power of play.

    i’m trying to think more about my fears and actual danger…
    it’s hard with a new walker but i know i need to find a balance between making myself feel calm and letting d discover his body’s abilities and limits… i know that balance will change as he grows… it’s a learning process – for all of us!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I need a daily reminder with a “creative play tip to engage in with your child” – would you like to send those to me please? ;)

  6. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    Finally jumping in here!

    The rants in the book about marketing to children really speak to me. One of the big reasons we have the Critter at a different preschool now is that there are no computers, no TV, no brand-name characters there — all of which were, I believe inappropriately, part of the day at his previous daycare. However, I’m intrigued by the fact that Dr. Cohen’s daughter played with Barbies even though he loathed them. My mother loathed Barbie, and so I never had one! I like the ideas that he gives us about playing with what we don’t like or approve of rather than making it verboten; it ends up giving the child (and us!) more power, I think.

    @Shannon, in terms of gifts from family, we don’t ever tell them what we don’t want the Critter to have, but we do make suggestions about what we DO want. That’s generally worked for us, but it really depends on what your relationship is like. For example, my sister has had less luck with her in-laws than I have had with mine in this arena, I think.

    A question for anyone and everyone: at what age does fantasy play begin to emerge? Our boy is 2-yo, and I haven’t seen it yet — so far just a lot of building and destroying and balls and wheels and wheels and wheels. Though he does sometimes say that his doll or a stuffed animal is “sleepy” and so we put the lovey to bed.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Rachael – I’d say he’s already developing fantasy play – when he builds/destroys, I wonder if he’s imagining being the bulldozer? Or a big dinosaur? I think I saw flashes of that a little before two years/right around two years – the nurturing of dolls, etc. But it really exploded around . . . 2.5? I can’t remember!

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