A problem child is only a problem child because we don’t know how to handle them. The best way to figure them out (if we’re stuck for ideas) is to read widely, get as many other suggestions as possible, then figure it out through trial and error.
Hercules has been my problem child. Unlike Aristotle, who I seem to instinctively understand, Hercules has baffled me until it recently dawned upon me that he was the child that I was. It was hard to understand him because I was blinded by my emotions. His “destructive” behaviours were making it hard for me to break the vicious cycle because I was constantly reacting rather than responding. Thanks to Sharon Silver, author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding, I was able to discover where I was going wrong, remove myself sufficiently to think with more clarity, and respond more appropriately.
Aristotle was a very serious child. It wasn’t hard to engage him because he is like a mini-adult in many ways. Hercules, on the other hand, is full of delight, mischief, and playfulness. He is the Energiser Rabbit incarnate. The kind of engaging he required was no longer in my repertoire because I feel old and tired and worn. I no longer remember how to play the way he does.
Like I usually do when I’m stumped, I went looking for advice and I found it in this book:
Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen
What is this book about?
According to Cohen, through play we can help our children:
- Express and understand complex emotions
- Break through shyness, anger, and fear
- Empower themselves and respect diversity
- Play their way through sibling rivalry
- Cooperate without power struggles
And by using play – the language of children – we can build stronger bonds.
Although I got this book initially to help me learn how to “play” with my kids and to connect with them through play, Cohen has opened up my mind to a new approach for tackling serious issues through play, such as sibling rivalry, discipline, and building confidence. And though the intention of this book was for me to gain some insight for handling Hercules, I have found the methods to be equally effective with Aristotle, my serious child.
As a parent, it can sometimes feel exhausting to have to think about getting down on the floor and playing with your child when all you want to do is get horizontal on the couch and zone out in front of the idiot box after a hard day. It is amazing, however, how much more peace you can get just by giving your child that 20 minutes of real play that not only helps you foster the bond with your child but even discover what’s causing his negative behaviours and help him get past it. And while it might seem exhausting at the start, the improvement in your child’s behaviour really does make it worth it.
If there is one take-home message that I got from this book, it is that play can be a remarkable tool for handling a number of parenting issues with children. If you’re stuck on how to use it, this is a great book to read.
For more ideas on playful parenting, check these out: