Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaBloPoMo 1/30: Playful Parenting

This is the fourth year I've participated in NaBloPoMo on this blog. I've been a bit slack in the last 6 months, and I'm hoping that posting daily for a month will help me get back on track a bit.

NaBloPoMo 2011

I read the book Playful Parenting last spring, and it really resonated with me. The book was written by a child psychologist who has decades of experience in therapy, and the basic premise of the book is that playing with children is one of the most powerful parenting tools we have.

I tend toward being silly and playful with Carter naturally, so I was able to take most of what I read and incorporate it into what I do, with great results. I used what I've read again tonight, and though I had planned to post Halloween pictures on this first day, I decided instead to start off the month with this incident while it's fresh in my mind.

So tonight Doug and I both got home from work and decided it would be fun to go out to dinner. We wanted to go to our local Chinese joint, but when we told Carter where we were going, he insisted we go instead to Rudy's for breakfast tacos. Obviously this is impossible, but he was on the verge of melting down over it.

And the thing is, this meltdown was not about dinner; it's about the fact that Daddy has been gone for a week and we've been traveling (and travel days are hard because he gets told where to go and what to do ALL day long, with no room to burn off steam) and his life has been disrupted and he's feeling powerless. When he feels powerless, he gets whiny and demanding.

He whined the whole way there in the car, and kicked the back of the seat, and even kicked his video player (which was promptly taken down for its own protection). When we got to the restaurant, we asked him if he was going to be able to eat dinner. If not, we'd just go home. He considered it for a moment, and then said yes, he'd be fine.

And he was. But on the way home he was very whiny, if no longer demanding. I'd hoped eating would help, and it did marginally, but the powerlessness was still clearly there. So I thought about what PP would suggest, and the moment we got out of the car, I said, "Do you want to play a game?" He said yes, and when I asked him what game he wanted to play, he said, "Let's play the Scary Monster game. I'm the little boy, and you're the scary monster."

How's that for telling?

So we played that game. I pretended to be a scary monster and chased him around the house. I would capture him and carry him to my cave (the guest bedroom) for snuggles, and then he would escape (while I insisted escape was impossible, LOL) and we'd start all over again. We played this for about 20 minutes, and I just followed his lead. It eventually morphed into a game where he was a baby bird and I was his mommy, and we did a lot of snuggling.

And then he was fine. Connection re-established, and everyone is back to normal. As I type this, he's happily stamping on paper over at his little table. By offering to play a game with him, any game he wanted, I let him safely be in charge for a little while. I knew that he had been feeling powerless around me yesterday -- I did spend an inordinate amount of time telling him what he couldn't do and constantly dragging him along to get where we needed to go -- and in the rush to get home and get ready for Halloween, I didn't address it. In fact, I probably just made it worse when I herded him around from house to house while trick-or-treating. He even asked me to do something reconnecting with him this morning, but I had to take a shower and get ready for work. So he NEEDED to reconnect and he NEEDED to feel powerful in order to get his balance back, and he KNEW that. He asked for it, repeatedly, and it wasn't until this evening that it finally clicked for me. I feel badly that I didn't address it sooner, but grateful that I figured it out in time for us to have a more relaxed evening.

And that's exactly how it's supposed to work! It's always fascinating to me when things really work the way the experts in books say they will. I can understand the theory and it seems really reasonable, but watching it actually work is another thing altogether.

Here's my little baby bird, trapped in the Scary Monster Cave:



Tune in tomorrow for Halloween pictures and/or pictures from our weekend trip to NC.

Past NaBloPoMo entries can be found here:

2008 || 2009 || 2010

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