Giggle Parenting: For Food Fears


Giggle Parenting is all about reversing the roles, and giving your child the power, so they get to build their confidence, feel good, and better connected.

When your child is afraid of trying new foods, or refuses food they used to like a simple role reversal can help.

Take the food they are afraid of and pretend that it’s afraid of them! Have it shriek, before hiding back in the fridge, or jumping into the cupboard. Talk to the food, and try to persuade it that it’s safe to come out, that it’s really okay to be eaten. As you slowly bring the food out have it jump and hide away in another place.

Have the food jump into really silly places that it really doesn’t belong like the cutlery drawer, or dishwasher. For extreme giggles, you could have it try to run into the bathroom or out the front door. Act all exasperated and keep telling the food, ”no that’s not right, you don’t belong there!” Repeat as long as the giggles flow.

This Giggle game may not result in your child instantly eating up the food, but it will help them feel closer connected and more confident about trying new things. For more tips on picky eating check out my article, How Connection Helps Picky Eaters. And for more fun suggestions to laugh away picky eating check out 20 Playful Ways To Help Picky Eaters.

Giggle Parenting: For Getting Your Children To Pick Their Stuff Of The Floor!


Do you ever feel frustrated when you ask your child to pick something off the floor and they just flat out refuse? When children feel disconnected or are dealing with upset feelings, they often can’t think clearly to process our requests, let alone actually do as we tell them! Asking indirectly through connection is often much more effective.

When my daughter leaves stuff on the floor, or when I’m tidying up and I’d like her to help. I do something called  ‘the Trip Test.’  I say in a playful way as if I’m totally unsure, ”hmm, I wonder if that should be on the floor, let me do a test and see.” Then I walk towards it and do an exaggerated trip, and conclude that it has failed the Trip Test.

These kind of mini ‘giggle parenting’ moments may not always result in instant co-operation, but each shared moment of laughter and connection is all part of building co-operation between us.

So have a look around your home, and try out the Trip Test. I’d love to hear how it goes!

For more information about how to use connection to help your kids tidy up check out How To Spring Clean With Kids, 25 Fun Ways To Get Your Children To Tidy Up, or this podcast episode about listening for co-operation

Giggle Parenting For When Your Child Is Bored


You may have heard it many times that it’s good for children to be bored, that we should all let our children be bored during the summer holidays etc. so they can learn and maintain the skills of independence and creativity.

It’s true that we don’t do our children any favours when we over-schedule or over-entertain them in order to protect them from boredom. However we’re also not doing them any favours to in leaving them completely alone with their feelings of boredom. When children feel well-connected to us, and don’t have upset feelings clouding their thinking they can usually think well about what they want to do, play independently, and come up with new creative ways to spend the time.

Complains of ”I’m bored” often come because a child is feeling disconnected, and is dealing with upset feelings that get in the way of them enjoying life, and figuring out what they love to do.

Giggle Parenting can often work as a simple quick-fix for boredom. When my daughter complains that she’s bored, I use a pretend phone to phone up the ”to-do hotline.” I talk to someone on the line and explain that I’ve got a very bored girl at home and that I need some ideas of what to do. The person on the phone tells me that I should just let my daughter watch screen. I act all playfully shocked and exclaim, ”no, no! Not screen. I don’t want her to watch screen, give me a good suggestion of what to do.” This really makes my daughter laugh, as often her go-to for feelings of boredom is to watch screen, and I know in these moments it’s more helpful for me to help her back to independent play.

Then I’ll have the to-do hotline tell me that she should do all kinds of ridiculous things like throw all of mummy’s socks out of her sock drawer, or make a mess of her bedroom. After a few giggles my daughter is often ready to play independently again.

So when your child is complaining of boredom, try phoning the to-do hotline and see what they suggest. It could be wild and crazy things, like take a rocket and go to the moon, or leave the house right now, or have a bath with your clothes on. You can act all playfully angry and annoyed that the hotline is not suggesting anything sensible and your child can laugh and laugh Just see where your mind and the giggles lead you.

For more information on boredom check out Patty Wipfler’s article What to do when your child is bored. For regular giggle parenting ideas, sign up to my blog at the top right hand corner of this post. 


How To Listen To Babies


When parents first discover Hand in Hand Parenting, and the principle of staylistening,  they often feel that they cannot apply it to young babies. It can seem too complicated or even dangerous, to try and figure out the times when a baby just needs to have his or her feelings listened to.

This is understandable;  babies use crying as a way to communicated their needs, and since they can’t use words, there’s often a lot of trial and error involved, especially for first time parents. All of us tried our best, and had moments of confusion, or worry that we weren’t getting it right.

Most parents of infants, (and I did this too many times!), can fall into the trap of thinking that our babies only cry when they need something. So when a baby cries and we can’t figure out the need is, we start getting into the mindset that if there doesn’t seem to be a need we can identify then we just need to stop the crying. We may bounce them or pat them, or shhh them. We may try just about anything if it works to gets the crying to stop.

This is where it’s really important to distinguish between ‘needs’ crying, and ‘feelings’ crying, as psychotherapist Matthew Appleton refers to the two different ways babies use crying to communicate.

Babies are born with the emotional part of their brain fully developed at birth. This means that they need to express feelings, and have a good cry, for optimum health and wellbeing just like any other age human being does.

They may also be born with big feelings that they may need to process. This could be due to a mother having stress during pregnancy, or because of a difficult birth. In the first few weeks and months of their life, they will also need to cry to process coming into the world, or to calm down after overstimulation.

When a baby cries and we know all their needs are met, when we know they are fed, and physically comfortable, and aren’t unwell, then we don’t actually have to try to get the crying to stop. In fact it’s kinder not to stop the crying. We can hold our baby in our arms, look into the eyes, and just listen.

This is not about cry it out. Science tells us that when babies are left alone to cry, their system gets overwhelmed with high levels of stress hormones. This has led many parents to believe that the crying is harmful. But it is healing for babies, just as it would be for an older child and adult. In a study where babies were left alone to cry it out, they actually stopped crying, (but remained in a highly stressed state). This shows how it is the stress of being left alone that is the problem, rather than the crying.

When a baby cries in our warm loving presence, with us there to just hold them, give them warm loving eye contact, they sense that crying is okay. There are mirror neurons in our brain that reflect and recreate the moods of those around us, so when we are anxious and pacing, trying to stop the crying, our baby picks up on our mood and mirrors our emotional state.

Instead if we can be calm with crying, and understand when babies simply need to express feelings, they can attune to our calm relaxed brain, and know that all is well. Crying is actually vital to healthy brain development and for promoting secure attachments. A baby whose given the space to cry in the first few months of his life, knows that his feelings are welcome.

Figuring out when a baby just needs to express feelings, isn’t always easy. It’s always good to err on the side of caution, to trust our instincts, and to seek medical advice if you have any concerns. A listening partner is a vital part of this process. Often our reactions to our baby’s crying are so entwined with our unconscious memories of hurt from our infancy, that we need to process these before beginning the process of listening to our own baby.

For more information about how we can listen to babies feelings, check out Patty Wiplers’  new parent podcasts or my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children which is focused on applying the Hand in Hand Parenting approach from birth to age 5.



A Giggle Parenting Cure For Grumpy Mornings

Child Skin Blanket Foot Baby Small Newborn

This morning my daughter woke up thinking it was Saturday and was most disappointed to find out it wasn’t! Uhoh I thought, finding myself going into an inner dialogue of whether school was really the right choice, and wishing it was still the holidays.

Then a thought sprung into my mind. My daughter was wrapped in a rug on the sofa, and I started telling her, ”if you don’t get dressed soon, I’ll have to take you in this rug, and then the teacher will ask, is this a flying carpet, because no flying carpets are allowed in school, and then you’ll say abracradabra, and the rug will start flying in the sky with all your friends on it. And the teacher will say, come on down, it’s time to sit in the circle, no flying carpets are allowed in school!”

She was laughing a lot at this scenario and after that happily went to get dressed.

It’s so easy for us to get triggered by our child’s grumpiness, to go off into our own grumpy, despairing thoughts. Our own thoughts make our child’s mood much bigger than it needs to be.

Even after five years of using this laughter tool I’m still amazed at how quickly it transforms things. One of the things I like about telling stories, is just how limitless our imagination is, how we can use it to conjure up stories and outlandish situations to make our children laugh, and diffuse the tension.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you can use the power of words to get laughter going with your kids.

Here’s a few suggestions for inventing silly stories.

  1. Have the children in the more powerful role. In my story the children have the power. They’re flying on a carpet while the teacher is frustrated and helpless, trying to get them to come back down. It’s so different to the norm where children often have their days dictated by adults feel that it helps to diffuse tension.
  2. Include adults doing silly things that are quite out of character. Children love it when adults start doing ridiculous things. So perhaps you make up a story where dad goes to the supermarket and ends up the moon instead, or mum starts building an aeroplane to take the kids to school. Or a doctor ends up baking a cake instead of checking the patients, and then gives everyone cupcakes instead of medicine.
  3. Tie the stories to the challenges you’re facing in the moment – So if your child won’t clean their teeth, maybe you sit and tell them a story about a giant toothpaste tube, that got delivered and when you squeezed it the whole living room filled up with toothpaste, or if they are finding it hard to wind down to sleep, so you create stories about beds, that won’t stay still and keep trying to fly out of the window on adventures, while you – the frustrated parent try to make everything go smoothly again.
  4. Take time to relax and laugh yourself – If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, then take some time to nurture yourself and have a good giggle, whether it’s with a friend, listening partner, or watching a comedy show. This helps us tap in and exercise our humour muscle so the jokes start flowing.

For more ideas about giggles can transform your family life check out the archives on my blog, or sign up in the top right-hand corner, for regular inspiration.

Giggle Parenting: Long Distance


Photo Credit: DvvortyGirl

Have you ever been away from your child and wished that you had a way to deeply connect long distance? This has been at the forefront of my mind over the last few months when I’ve had quite a few trips away from my daughter.

A while back I read this story from Hand in Hand Parenting instructor Ceci Hyoun which is a great example of how it is possible to use the tool of playlistening ( what I call Giggle Parenting) long distance.

One of our favourite games evolved when I was away, and my daughter had a lot of big feelings, which were coming up in her not wanting to talk to me. She hung up the phone on me! So I rang back, acting all playfully surprised and ‘upset’ and let her hang up the phone on me again and again. This really made her laugh, and after laughing away some of hurt feelings we were better connected again and could have a conversation.

On a recent trip away from my daughter I skyped each day to keep in touch and we played this game a lot. I also found a few other ways to get the giggles flowing. One time, I rang up and she was eating crisps, so I started trying to reach out my hand to get the crisps, and saying, ”hey! Don’t eat them all, save some for when I get back!” Or I would come up close to the camera and say, ”I just need to take a look what’s going on”, and start trying to look at what was happening at home. Or as my husband always forgets to brush my daughter’s hair while I’m away, I started telling her I was going to use my skype hairbrush to brush it, and acting all confused when I tried it and it didn’t work.

If you need to take a trip without your children and are worried about staying connected, why not bring a bit of Giggle Parenting into your conversations. Just focus on any kind of silly, playful conversation that puts you in the less powerful role, and gives your child the power. Any thing that gets your child laughing, especially if it plays around with the distance between you, can help them deal with separation anxiety.

Here are a few examples:

-If you ring and your child’s still in their pyjamas, then why not try to get them dressed. Search around for their clothes and act all surprised when you pick up your own clothes and wonder where their ones are.

-Eat a snack while on the phone to them, and then try to send them some, and then act all confused when they don’t receive it.

-Or if they seem a bit grumpy and off-track, you could even invite them to hang up the phone on you by saying in a playful tone; ”I really hope you don’t hang up the phone on me…”

Giggle Parenting long distance has really helped my daughter and I stay emotionally present when I’m far away, which really helps the reconnection process when I return.

To read more about Giggle Parenting check out my introductory post here, or the laughter chapter of my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children



How To Spring Clean With Kids


With spring in the air this week I have been feeling the urge to de-clutter and tidy up, and remembered this post that I compiled last year with 25 tips for tidying up from my fellow Hand in Hand Parenting instructors. I know that I feel much more comfortable involving my daughter with the tidying, rather than just handing her a screen while I get on with it. Tidying-up can be fun, and actually is a chance to connect with our kids.

Since writing that post, I’ve learnt a bit more about what works for us when it comes to tidying-up together. So if you’d like to begin spring cleaning, then here are some tips for how to begin.

Set a timer. If your child is familiar with using the timer from having regular special times, then this helps a lot. Choose a time, (I like to do one hour) and tell your child you’re going to have tidying up time. Let them know how long it will be.

There may be some moans and groans. This doesn’t mean your child hates tidying, or that it’s going to be impossible to get them motivated. Like any human being, sometimes feelings get in the way of getting motivated. Our children start off as a blank state. They aren’t born hating tidying and cleaning. In fact many babies love to imitate their parents, cleaning with a cloth, or putting things away in the right place.

What sometimes happen is that children’s feelings get in the way. Or the demands of school, and busy schedules mean that they don’t have so much time to play, so the thought of being told what to do brings reluctance. What’s key is understanding how to make tidying-up play. We can use the 25 playful ways to encourage children, or set limits, and listen to any feelings of reluctance that come up. Either way, once the feelings are out of the way your child is much more likely to enjoy the process.

At first nothing much may get done. I know when my daughter is feeling particularly disconnected if my attempts to tidy-up result in her ‘untidying.’ If this happens then it’s important to understand that this is all part of the process. Perhaps the first time you do ‘tidying-up time,’ you end up chasing your giggling child while they deliberately try to make a mess and you get nothing done. Don’t be disheartened! You are building the connection your child needs to be able to think clearly and co-operate. Next time it may be a completely different story. (Read more in How Letting Our Children Make A Mess Builds Co-Operation).

Be flexible and keep our expectations reasonable. We were tidying up this morning, and then my daughter got distracted by the thought of making tissue paper flowers. I didn’t set a limit and encourage her to keep tidying. She was happy and playing independently so I used this as a good opportunity to just get on with the work. We need to keep our expectations age appropriate, so children might flit in and out of tidying, as they get distracted by toys etc. We can be flexible and just go with the flow.

What’s more important than how much physical work our children do, is that we help them make happy, connected memories of the process. So many of us grew up with chores being ‘hard work’ that we often had to do alone. We can bring joy, play and connection into the process. This is a much better teaching tool for them than being harsh, or demanding they tidy-up everything immediately. When we offer our children flexibility, they’ll also be much more willing to offer to help us spontaneously so it may mean that we notice the benefits of their learning about tidying at a later date.

Have tidying-up time regularly. What I noticed with my daughter, is that as we did regular tidying-up times, it became routine, and she began to realise that it could be a fun time, to be together, laugh, and make our home environment a little less cluttered. So having a short tidying up time each day, or longer times a couple times a week, makes it become a normal part of life.

I hope you find these tips useful. Happy Cleaning! For more ideas check out Children And Chores: Four Ways To Get Them To Help, and my podcast interview with Casey O’Roarty, all about listening and how it helps our children co-operate.

What works for you when you try to tidy-up with your kids around? I’d love to hear from you!