One Practice that Can Change Everything

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When I feel like my boys are getting a little defiant and things are getting tough around the house, I find that I haven’t been building enough miniature ninjas or castles made of bricks.

Parents are always looking for new ways to change kids’ behavior. We try timeouts, charts, rewards, and so on, with varying degrees of success. Every child is a little different. They come with different personalities and temperaments, and certain disciplines work better with some than others.

When I teach parenting classes, most parents come looking for specific disciplinary techniques to stop bad behavior they’re dealing with at home. Many parents are surprised when I start out discussing something that seems very different from traditional discipline, but is one of the greatest and most natural teaching tools we have: play.

Play is the language of children. Kids use play to create and understand social boundaries. They explore and discover real-life roles and responsibilities. Play enhances emotional intelligence as well as cognitive intelligence. Countless studies substantiate play as a connecting, relationship building, emotional, moral and cognitively educational tool.

My sons love Legos. When I feel like my boys are getting a little defiant and things are getting tough around the house, I find that I haven’t been building enough miniature ninjas or castles made of bricks. Play is so much more than just fun!

4 ways to make play beneficial for both parent and child:

  1. Approach them on their level. Play builds trust, respect, understanding, and a reference for later correction and discipline. When we play with our kids we get to act out life situations and model values, boundaries and healthy skills without being condescending or threatening. Play allows us to teach cause and effect as well as rules and appropriate behavior.
  2. Imagine the possibilities. Play expands creativity, dreams, and goal driven behavior. Imaginative play opens a whole world of choices and possibilities to kids and challenges them to pursue great things even when the rest of the world says, “You can’t.”
  3.  Just connect. Again, play is fun. When we are happy, we connect. Kids need to know you care about them and about what they care about.
  4. Understand them and what they need. Play is a glimpse into the head and heart of our children. It’s amazing to watch a child play and to join with them in their play. It’s incredible what we can learn about them, what makes them happy, what bothers them. Themes, feelings, and actions that they can’t quite verbalize flow from them when they play. If we devote just a few minutes a day to engaging in this wonderful forum of communication, we’ll find new ways to interact and work with our children that we never thought of before.

Play therapy is one of the most effective therapeutic techniques for improving child expression. It helps kids to cope with, and solve, problems. Parents can act as preventative therapists by simply devoting a little time to playing. Play is a universal language that speaks love, kindness, and understanding. When we have those things, great things follow!

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One Practice that Can Change Everything

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10 comments

  1. Profile photo of Olivia Olivia says:

    I think its a fantastic idea. I think sometimes its easier for us as the parent to get frustrated with the child when they are misbehaving. But who has time to do that when you are sitting down and playing with your child? I find it a nice escape from the everyday stress of life. A child’s imagination and the way they play is such an amazing thing!

  2. Profile photo of nancyk nancyk says:

    Great ideas! It’s so true, too. Kids act out to get our attention. If they already feel like we are engaging with them, they won’t need to act out to get attention. This makes perfect sense.

  3. Profile photo of katrina katrina says:

    Good to know, I am expecting my first child and will remember this.

  4. Profile photo of Sharmaine Sharmaine says:

    I never knew that knowing playing with my 3-year-old daughter & 2 month old son will build a better bond for me. Their social life will be very interesting, yet different.

  5. Profile photo of LIZ says:

    i love reading this make realice some many things

  6. Profile photo of John Haley John Haley says:

    Immersion is great for training in any field! Remember that “2 Week Trial” period, when you started your new job? Or when the supervisor would stop in and make things harder for you than it needed to be? It is almost the same technique…only on adults.

  7. Profile photo of mommy nhoj mommy nhoj says:

    Interesting! Some parents enrolled their 2year old toddlers to playschool to get along with other children.

    • I’M NOW A GRANDMOTHER I DO SEVERAL OVERNIGHTS WITH MY GRANDSON GABRIEL. HIS DADDY IS MY SON AND MOMMY AREN’T LIVING TOGETHER SO MY SON IS STAY ON MY COUCH THE PROBLEM IS HE NEVER WANTS TO WAKE UP UNTIL HE HAS TO LEAVE FOR WORK I AM MY GRANDSONS PRIMARY CAREGIVER . I GET NOT A WHOLE LOT OF ANYTHING BUT ATTITUDE. I FEEL LIKE WHEN HIS MOMMY COMES TO PICK HIM UP ON VERY SHORT NOTICE I’M BEING SCUTINIZED DUE TO THE FACT SHE DOES’NT CALL .SHE HAS NO IDEA THAT I GET DOWN ON HIS LEVEL ,TALK, PLAY SING HE RESPONDS WITH HAPPY SCREAMS ,LAUGHING AND NOISES . I CAN’T TELL HIM WHAT TO DO HE GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE YELLING I KNOW HOW TO TAKE CARE OF MY CHILD —- MOM MOM OF MANY

      • Profile photo of Megan KlayEditor Megan Klay says:

        It’s amazing that you’re doing so much to help your son and grandson! Have you tried speaking with your grandson’s mother and explaining the situation so at least you will not feel judged by her, if she understands all that you’re doing to help? Unfortunately I don’t have any good suggestions for how to get your son to help raise his child more, other than try your best to talk to him and help your grandson to interact with him which will hopefully increase your son’s interest in engaging with and caring for his child. Best wishes!

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