I started this blog to share the message that listening to tears helps our children to fully express their feelings, so that they are free of the upsets that cause all those off-track kinds of behaviour, such as aggression, whining and all the other challenging behaviours we have to deal with as parents! But I should also mention laughter. Laughter is also part of the way we naturally release stress and tension from our bodies, and there are many physical and emotional health benefits too.
When my daughter was 16 months old, we had a busy time travelling back to the UK for Christmas. We ended up all being ill and the travel combined with the illness meant I didn’t spend much time connecting with her.
When we arrived back home she started fighting me over everything; getting dressed, nappy changing, and going in her buggy. I assumed it was because she was getting older, and I was nervous about how things would become more difficult and challenging as we neared the ‘terrible two’s.’
But I’d also learnt through Hand in Hand parenting, that ‘off-track’ behaviour is a sign that a child is feeling disconnected from us. it is their way of telling us, ‘’I need connection!’’ From this perspective our children are naturally, good, loving and co-operative, it’s just that sometimes upset feelings, can get in the way of their feeling our warmth and love.
I knew that reconnecting with my daughter would help improve things, but I was still feeling exhausted and recovering from being ill. The first thing I did was call my listening partner. A listening partnership is a scheme where two parents exchange listening time with each other, without offering advice, telling their own stories, or trying to fix things. The idea is, that when someone truly listens to us in a warm and supportive way, without interrupting to ‘help,’ then we can release our negative feelings. Anger, stress, and exhaustion all evaporate when we can really talk to someone about how we are feeling. I’m always amazed that often just five or ten minutes of listening can restore my energy, enthusiasm, and patience for being with my daughter.
Now I was all set to try some playlistening. This is play where we take on a less powerful role, and try to get our children laughing (not the involuntary laughter of tickling). Laughter releases some of the stress, tension and frustration that can accumulate when children feel powerless. It’s ideal for dissolving toddler power struggles. Children often laugh when we try and fail to do the things they’re trying to learn, or when we make ‘mistakes.’
That morning while I was putting on my sock, I pretended to struggle with it, and then ‘pinged’ it across the room and acted surprised. My daughter laughed a lot at this so I repeated it. I kept struggling to put on various items of clothing and she kept laughing. Then I started to walk and fell over again and again over. My daughter found this hilarious. I tried to hang some washing up, and kept saying ‘’oh no!’’ as it repeatedly fell down. Then we were playing on my bed, and my daughter would laugh gleefully, as she threw some clothes off the bed, and I would keep trying to retrieve them, only to have her throw them off again. At naptime, I chased her around the house, and she kept laughing as she managed to ‘escape’ me!
Understanding what makes our children laugh is a hit and miss thing, and sometimes my attempts would fall flat, but I kept trying, using my intuition, to see what would work. We had a really laughter packed morning, as if we were making up for all the playlistening missed while we were on holiday. When she took her nap, she fell asleep much more easily than normal. I was also feeling much more relaxed.
After this morning my connection with my daughter was much better. She stopped fighting me about everyday things. She happily went in her buggy, and let me change her nappy without a fuss. This is something that’s happened many times, that what I think is her getting older, more difficult and ‘toddler-like’ is actually just a period of disconnection that we can overcome by using the Hand in Hand parenting tools. And I’m happy to say that the ‘terrible twos’ never did arrive! Instead thanks to Hand in Hand parenting, they are actually quite terrific!
Check out my Giggle Parenting Archives for laughter based solutions for all your family challenges. And if your struggling with something that’s not on the list, leave me a comment, or send me a message via this contact form and your challenge can be the subject of my next blog post!
Are you looking for more playlistening inspiration? Playful Parenting By Dr. Lawrence Cohen, is packed full of playlistening ideas.