Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 10: Playful Parenting

(Click HERE to read the rest of the Grace-Parenting series!)
The more connected we are to GOD, to our spouse, to our family, and to our dearest friends, the more at peace we feel and the better we respond to the pressures of life.
This is just a simple fact that is true for all of humanity, even for the youngest of our race. :)
Beginning at birth, when a newborn immediately craves its mother's warm and loving embrace, and continuing throughout all of life, we all crave connection with those we love.
A connected child feels--and therefore, acts---better.

On Day 3 we talked about the incredible power of touch in parenting.
Touch is certainly one of the most important ways to build connection.
Today we're going to talk about another way to build that necessary connection with our children:
Like it's name suggests, playful parenting is the act of engaging our children in a non-threatening, playful way.
Playful parenting can be used not only to connect with your child, but also to encourage obedience and make learning fun.
1. Use Playful Parenting to Connect with your Child.
Parents naturally play with their little babies.
Once children get a little older, some adults find it difficult to relate to their children in a playful manner. (Three hours of Candyland, anyone??)
Yet, children are playful little creatures and they LOVE to play with us! Most children would rather play with their Mommy or Daddy than do just about anything else. :)
Don't believe me?
Stop reading this right now.
Go over to your child, get eye-contact, and say, "Mommy has a few minutes of free time and I would like to PLAY with YOU! Do you want to play tag? Hide-and-seek? Have a pillow fight on my bed? Race your cars? Dress up and play tea party?"
What is your child's response? Complete, utter delight. :)
Children LOVE to play and be played WITH.
Often, Mommies are SO busy with the day-to-day necessary tasks of life---the laundry, dishes, cooking, schooling, diaper-changes, cleaning, grocery shopping. etc, etc---that they get too busy to remember to playfully interact with their children!
It becomes more about getting through the day and so much less about enjoying the moment.
When is the last time you crawled around on the floor, pretending to be a Momma lion chasing after her cubs?
When is the last time you had a good-old-fashioned family pillow fight?
How long has it been since you've tickled your 10 year old?
I'll be very honest and say that this is an area I sometimes struggle with myself. I'm thankful for a husband who thrives in the area of enjoying the moment and who has taught me much about Playful Parenting.
For example, I can potty, undress, bathe, dry, and re-dress all three toddlers in about 10 minutes.
Brent, on the other hand, takes about an hour to do the same exact job.
The difference?
He is having fun and I'm just getting it done.
He makes a water fountain out of cups, he chases little naked bottoms, he plays hide-and-seek with the towel, and he tickles bellies as he dresses them.
We both get bath time "done", but one of is is more connected when it's over.
The lesson here is simple: Take the time to connect with your child through playful parenting!
2. Use Playful Parenting to Encourage Obedience.
As you probably know by now, I believe in teaching and training for obedience.
Not only is obedience important for family structure, it is vital as a life-skill.

Authority will always be a part of our lives. :)
Take a minute now, and think back to your favorite childhood teacher---it doesn't have to be a school teacher, it could be a music teacher, a church teacher, a sports coach, any authority you spent time with as a child.
Did you strive to do your best for your favorite teacher because they held a big stick over your head and threatened to hit you with it if you did anything less than your very best? Did you love this teacher and do your best for them because they embarrassed you in front of your friends? Did you love this teacher because they spoke to you in a degrading, sarcastic, or disrespectful tone of voice?
I think not.
My point is this----this adult became your favorite for reasons other than "strict" discipline.
YES, structure and rules and following authority are a necessary and important part of all learning.
But everyone obeys easier when they feel connected and enjoy being with their authority.
The same is true for our precious children. YES, they need to obey us (and hopefully I'm giving you tools to help with teaching them that). But we can make it so much easier on the child if we do our best to make obedience FUN.
Here are just a few of the ways you can use Playful Parenting to encourage obedience.
*When it's time to pick up a messy room full of toys, instead of barking out, "Everybody clean up this mess RIGHT NOW or else!", try saying  (with a giant smile and an enthusiastic tone) "All right, everyone---we're going to clean up this mess as fast as we can! I bet I can pick up more toys than you can! Ready. Set. GO!" :)
*The next time you feel overwhelmed at the mess, the noise, the disobedience, and the chaos that is your life, instead of complaining or yelling, turn on some upbeat music (we use the Maple Leaf Rag, lol) and twirl your little ones around the living room. Jump, tickle, play, laugh, and let the stress melt away as you playfully connect with your children.
*If your toddler is starting to fuss or get grumpy, instead of pulling out a discipline tool, break out into a silly song. Having fun is contagious and hard to resist and before you know it, you'll both be smiling. :)
*Play "rock, paper, scissors" to decide who gets to pick their favorite chore.
*Don't always use the "I mean business" voice. (You know which one I mean.) Instead, use an engaging, sweet, loving, fun tone of voice.
*Make up a pretend character for yourself (NO, I will never demonstrate mine to my blog friends, lol. Leave me with some respect, thank you very much. :)) and use her to teach your children. (Or, in my case, make them laugh hysterically.) Change your voice and mannerisms and watch your children light up in excitement. (I use this when I am not succeeding at getting everyone's attention. I slide my glasses down to the tip of my nose and tuck my lips around my teeth to look like an old lady. I always start with, "Listen here, young people...." and my.children.LOVE.it.) Brent's arms turn into "Bubba" and "Zippy" when he plays with our children. :)
*When it's time for bed, tell your little ones that you're going to, "Count to three and then the crocodile is going to come eat you!" (In our house, Brent is the crocodile.) :) The children will take off running and laughing, obeying without confrontation.
*Make "large" tasks more fun and manageable by racing each other. Examples: Folding laundry, schoolwork, yardwork, cleaning out the family car, picking up legos, etc....
Use your imagination and make obedience FUN by connecting to your children through Playful Parenting. 


  1. One of our favorite (if you can have a favorite chore ;))is called a ten minute tidy. We start a timer and clean as fast as we can, but still putting things in their proper place, and the time goes so fast. My hubby has the job of keeping the time on his watch and will yell out how much longer we have. Such a nice way to get the place clean and not have to yell. It is amazing how much you can get done in ten minutes. Thank you so much for this series, I have learned so much and can't wait to put your suggestions into action.

  2. Oh my goodness. I both love and loathe this post! haha. This is so, so, so hard for me! Honestly, when I got to this part of The Connected Child, I just closed the book and put it down and haven't picked it up since! I have six littles ages 8 down to 18 months. Two have been home 2 years from Ukraine and I am a recovering law-driven Mama! Thanks for writing truthfully about the hard stuff.


I welcome any and all comments as long as they are Christ-honoring. Please let me know what you think!