When Your Child Pushes You – Giggle Parenting Inspiration

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Has this ever happened to you? Your child walks up to you, looks you right in the eye, and then completely out of the blue, pushes you?

Sometimes children ask for connection in the most challenging of ways. And it’s not their fault. In this article here, Patty Wipfler explains why children act aggressive when they are feeling disconnected, and how this can trigger fear and upset that causes them to lash out. Sometimes this disconnection can happen because of difficult experiences where they felt scared.

We probably don’t even need to tell our children that pushing or hitting is wrong (no child really wants to hurt others). What they do need us to is help them to process whatever stress or upset is behind their behaviour. Listening to tears can help. Laughter also plays a part.

It can take a lot of patience and understanding to save the lectures and act in a connecting way when your child lashes out. If you can manage the following game, it’s a great way to prevent aggressive behaviour from recurring. So when your child pushes you you might want to say in a playful way, ”hey!” and then actually encourage the behaviour. Tell your child that you hope they don’t push you into the living room/bathroom etc. And then stand waiting for them to push you. I’m sure they’ll take you up on your offer to play!l When you get there act all surprised about what you’re doing there. Repeat as long as they are laughing. Try pushing back (as long as it’s not to hard!) and walk backwards if that gets your child giggling.

Read here why getting giggles out in the moment actually reduces off-track behaviour.

For further reading Larry Cohen’s Playful Parenting is packed full of Giggle Parenting ideas.

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20 Playful Ways To Heal Aggression

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Aggression is common in toddlers, but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. The Hand in Hand parenting philosophy is based on the fact that all children are naturally, good, loving and co-operative. Sometimes hurt feelings overwhelm their limbic system – the emotional part of the brain, and when this happens, their pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for rational and reasonable thinking can’t function well. In moments of upset children lack impulse control, and can’t always remember in the moment that it’s wrong to hit, or kick other children or us.

So what can we do? Patty Wipfler’s article here explains how we can heal the deep fears that get in the way of our child’s thinking and cause them to lash out aggressively. When we sense our children are acting off-track, or we know the kind of situations in which they hit or kick then we can do a ‘friendly patrol.’ and be right there to catch the aggression before it happens. For example we can gently take our child’s hand and say, ”I’m sorry you feel bad, but I can’t let you hit.”

When we do this some of the feelings might bubble up that were behind the behaviour. For example our child might cry, with frustration and anger, at the child who has the toy he wants, or who said something that made them cross. We can staylisten to these feelings, knowing that every time we do so we prevent the likelihood of aggressive outbursts occurring.

It might be that our child starts wriggling away from us and laughing, releasing the stress and upset they feel through giggles. Then we can use playlistening to playfully set limits, providing we feel calm and can continue to keep everyone safe. By being playful we are not giving the message that aggression is okay. We can still set limits, telling a child ”I can’t let you hit” while allowing them to have their feelings.

Laughter might not always seem an appropriate way to handle aggression in the moment. It can be jarring with the strong emotions that our child is feeling, and they may simply need us to set limits and staylisten.

However playlistening and roughhousing can also be used proactively at other times to help a child to release the fears that can cause aggression. Playlistening puts them in the more powerful role, and can build the physical confidence so they’re less likely to lash out for real. This as well as setting limits and staylistening in the moment can help to get to the root cause of aggression.

Many parents assume that if we laugh and play around the topic of aggression, that it gives our children mixed-messages and can encourage it. However have you ever noticed the way mammals like kittens or puppies play? They tumble around and play fight without inflicting real damage. This kind of rough and tumble play has actually been shown to improve children’s social skills, and build their emotional intelligence – the very things that will help them to be less aggressive. Our children have a deep sense of what is play and what is real aggression when they are thinking straight. And when they’re not we can be ‘on patrol’ to set limits.

Below are a list of 20 playful games that can help to channel our toddler’s aggression into fun and giggles, with lots of physical connection tho help them build their confidence and release fear and stress. Thanks to all those instructors who contributed their wonderful ideas!

  1. My lovely sweet baby – When my daughter was about 12 months out she would sometimes scratch my face when she got tired. One afternoon, I moved her hands away from my face and said  in a playful tone, ‘’you are my lovely sweet baby, so sweet and gentle.’’ I would look into her eyes, and gently stroke her face or her foot. Then she would attack me with her arms grabbing or her legs kicking. I would respond by moving in close and giving her a hug to ‘protect’ myself. This elicited a lot of giggles. She really got into this game, and understood that my words and gentle stroking where a signal for her to attack! I could see her becoming more and more relaxed as we continued. She was peaceful and joyful. We finished the game and she fell asleep within seconds. That was rarity at the time.
  2. Lovely Daddy From Stephanie Parker, Hand in Hand parenting instructor in the UK  My daughter Innes was going through a stage of being really aggressive to her dad, I started to intervene in two ways. If she went to hit him I’d get there first and I’d hold her arm and hand and stroke him instead saying ‘ah, this is how we touch Daddy, stroking Daddy’ and she’d giggle and pretend to go along with it but then try and hit him again and I’d keep repeating it until the tension had gone and she no longer needed to hit him. Secondly when she called him names like stupid daddy, I would say ‘lovely daddy, beautiful daddy’ and she would giggle and continue to say stupid daddy and it would go on again until the tension was gone.
  3. Swing Giggles – When your child is on a baby swing, invite them to kick you when they swing towards you by saying ”I hope you don’t kick me!”Catch their kicks in a playful, gentle way. Or end up falling over with mock exaggeration, or fly back across the grass with the ‘power’ of their kicks. This will have them laughing and relishing the power.
  4. The vigorous snuggle – This is a wonderful way to heal aggression in the moment, by moving in close, snuggling with our child, planting raspberries, and meeting your child’s aggression with play. Rachel Schofield, explains how it works in this post here.
  5. Push me off the sofa – I used to play this game with my daughter and her friend who I would sometimes babysit. It often helped to diffuse tension between them if they could conspire against me, and push me off the sofa with lots of giggles. I would sometimes resist a bit more, to give them more of a chance to push against me, and struggle before finally falling on the floor. You can also play this one on a bed. Clare Harrison says, to her daughter “please, please don’t push me off the bed! Oh, I’m so scared! I don’t want to fall off the bed!” She laughs and pushes me off the bed; I’m very dramatic and loud with limbs akimbo, falling down as messily as I can, protesting all the while.
  6. Push me off the sofa – extreme version – My daughter would push me off the sofa, but I would fly off across the room with the ‘strength’ of her push. I would end up as far as the kitchen or the bathroom. Sometimes I would even open the front door and fall out and tell her it was because her push was so strong!
  7. Push Me Over – I would kneel on a bed while my daughter was standing, and say, ”I’m so strong, I’m the strongest mummy ever. I bet you can’t push me over.” My daughter would try and I would put up a bit of resistance at first, and then always let her win.
  8. Interception Games from Isabela Budusan, Hand in Hand trainee instructor. When I see my daughter approaching her sister about to be aggressive I take her in my arms before she reaches her, and make the airplane game with her, or take her like a bag on my shoulder and run through the house saying ”look what I`ve got here; a bag of potatoes!” or peanuts, depending on her mood.
  9. Bed Chase –  This works well on a soft bed. Tell your child you’re really fast and they wouldn’t be able to catch you. Let them chase you then catch you, and then  say, ”I bet you can’t pull me down,” and then let them wrestle you onto the bed.
  10. Bed Wrestling From Clare Harrison. I have two big boys (12 and 9) and a 2.5 year old girl who can get really frustrated being the little one. When I notice she’s starting to go off track (hitting, for eg), I will make space to play outside of a tricky situation, usually to wrestle. I looooove to wrestle with her, it’s really open, but all about her having the power and getting to be the tough one. I might get her onto our big bed and say things like “you get to be the boss, you tell me what you want me to do.” If she’s not sure, I might say “shall I crash you?” and “chase” after her lumbering and silly. This gets her leading pretty quickly as it will either be “yes” or “no mum!” I pretend that she is sooo much faster and stronger and cleverer than me: I fall off the bed, I let her “shove” me over, anything to get her laughing and feeling powerful. If she is still not sure about what she can do I might say “gosh, I hope no one hits me with that pillow” or something like that.
  11. The love gun game, from Larry Cohen’s Playful Parenting book.This is a game in which the adult getting shot simply has to love the child who shot them. While playing this game, the adult opens up his arms and takes a step toward the child with a big, silly, love-struck smile on his face, saying “Now, that you shot me, I just have to love you!”. As soon as the child shots him, a chase starts around the house and, when the child is caught, he gets hugged and loved.
  12. Dinosaur Bites By Anca Deaconu, Hand in Hand trainee instructor. Ever since my son was three, he has shown an increasing interest into the world of dinosaurs and one of his favorite games is about him being a strong carnivore dinosaur who “bites” (and eventually “kills”) a weak herbivore, his meal (and that is, of course, the role assigned to me 🙂 So, inspired by Cohen’s idea above, I thought I would give it a try. Each time he would bite me, I would pretend that I was given “the love bite” and that I am now under its spell. And, the more he’d “bite” me, the more I’d love him. So I chased him around the house, hugging and kissing him and enjoying his laughter and giggling. I was amazed to see how this game, that I have initially perceived as an aggressive one, has turned into a connection game, one that led to an unexpected surprise: later that day, my son made a drawing for me: a pink unicorn. Because – he said, “girls like unicorns, mommy and you are a girl”.
  13. Butterflies from Rachel Schofield. My 4 yo had gone to story time at the library with his granny which had been about butterflies. He came home and was offtrack which culminated in him wielding a tennis racket aggressively. I moved in and stopped him, got the racket off him, stayed close. He tried kicking and punching and I protected myself saying, “I’m not going to let you do that”. After a little while I sensed he was a bit stuck. The aggression was losing intensity but not going to release feelings. So I shifted to Playlistening. He had his feet against me and I was holding his hands, “Look! You’re like a butterfly” and waved his hands around. He smiled, “pick me up so I can fly” So I picked him up and flew him around waving his arms, he giggled and smiled and was in better shape when I landed him back on the ground.
  14. Sock Fight – This one is fun for all the family. Everyone has to try to take each other’s socks off. Put up a bit of resistance with older children, but go for the giggles and let them win eventually. You could try making a big fuss out of how good you are at sock fights, and never lose, and then be a ‘bad loser’ when you end up losing your socks.
  15. Grass Fight – If you’re somewhere with freshly moan grass tell your child how much you hate having grass thrown on you, inviting them to play. You could also try it with dried leaves on an autumn day. Or just tell your child, ‘I really hate having grass thrown in my hair,” I hope no-one does it. Run away, let them chase you and catch up with you, and let them tackle you to the floor.
  16. Pillow Fight – Pretty self-explanatory really. Let the kids win, and always take the less powerful role, so they don’t feel overpowered.  
  17. My precious object -Pick up a book, cushion, or any object that isn’t really too precious. Tell your child it’s your precious object that you never want to let go of. Hold it really tight then let them wrestle you for it.
  18. Indoor snowball fight – Check out this link for a set of pretend fluffy white snowballs, so you can have an indoor fight. Or alternatively just roll up some socks and use them instead.
  19. Splashing Games – In the bath, or outside with a hose or water pistols, on a warm day, or at the pool. Make a big deal about how you want your clothes/hair/face to stay dry. Tell your child that you’re the world best expert on staying dry. Let your child get you soaking.
  20. Catching And Escaping – My daughter loves to have music on and run across the room from one side to the other while I sit in the middle on the floor with my arms outstretched waiting to catch her and missing her each and every time. Then I might also catch her, and hold my arms really loose but say, ”my love is so strong, that I’m not sure you’ll be able to escape” and let her escape each time. This is a fun physical game that helps release tension, and build connection, giving a big dose of love.

 

Need more help? Check out Hand in Hand Parenting’s online self study course Help Your Child With Aggression.

Healing Aggression Through Laughter and Tears

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It was a shock when my one year old daughter learnt to bite me. She seemed to find it so amusing. I tried saying ‘ow’! loudly, or ignoring it, but that didn’t stop her. She’d often bite me when I was busy, and distracted, if I was holding her while trying to write an email, or in a rush trying to get ready to go out.

I knew through my understanding of Parenting by Connection, that biting is really a sign of fear. There was nothing intrinsically fearful about me paying attention to something else for a short moment, but somehow this small disconnection was triggering a bigger fear.

All children experience fear, from everyday situations such as falling over, or being separated from a parent for a short time. Then there are bigger more stressful events such as medical intervention, or a traumatic birth. Our children can recover from these stress or upsets, by crying, but they don’t always tell us about their fears in a straightforward way! When something stressful has happened they often need an extra big dose of connection with us, before they can release their feelings.

The biting wasn’t so bad, as usually I could deflect her teeth from chomping down on me. However one morning when I was busy getting ready she bit down on my arm and wouldn’t let go of me. We stared at each other like wild animals for about thirty seconds. I couldn’t do anything to make her let go!  For the first time I felt intense anger. I knew then that I needed to do something. So far it was only me that she bit, but I didn’t want her to start doing it to other children.

I decided to give my daughter some Special Time. This is when we listen to what our child wants to do, and follow their lead for a timed period. I had to ignore the thoughts in my head, that my daughter didn’t ‘deserve’ special time, and remember that was just me being triggered. I had to remember that the biting is a sign of fear. She didn’t mean to hurt me, she was trying to tell me how she was feeling in the only way she knew how. As I got down on the floor and began to play ball with her, I reflected upon what must have scared her. My pregnancy had been easy and straightforward. We had relatively stress free, happy lives. However her birth had been difficult. A long induction that ended in a vacuum extraction. I thought of the book, Birth without Violence, by Michel Odent, and felt so sad that she had experienced violence as such a tiny baby. I no longer felt angry, and began to cry suddenly feeling such empathy for her.

Later I experimented with using some playlistening to help her release some of the fear. When she tried to bite me, I would scream and try to crawl away. We had a few giggles as she chased me around the bed. I also gave her a pillow to bite which she enjoyed attacking! We had fun playing this game. My daughter seemed to enjoy the chance to play in a way we hadn’t before. To be given permission to express her power in play. It reminded me of the way kittens play, biting and scratching gently not wanting to cause pain, but just playing for fun. I began to understand that if I gave her opportunities to play in this way, then perhaps she wouldn’t feel the need to bite at other times.

My daughter would also scratch my face, particularly when she was tired. One afternoon when I was cradling her in my arms before sleep, she started scratching me. I moved her hands away and then began to initiate a game. I would say in a playful tone,

‘’you are my lovely sweet baby, so sweet and gentle,’’ and I would look into her eyes, and gently stroke her face or her foot. Then she would attack me with her arms grabbing or her legs kicking. I would respond by moving in close and giving her a hug to ‘protect’ myself. This elicited a lot of giggles. She really got into this game, and understood that my words and gentle stroking where a signal for her to attack! She was laughing much more than with our earlier playlistening games, and I could see her becoming more and more relaxed as we continued. She was peaceful and joyful. We were making a lot of eye contact. I felt like I had finally found the right game to help her release tension. It was a beautiful moment of connection where she could bring her up her aggressive feelings, and I could respond with affection and love. We finished the game and she fell asleep within seconds. That is a rarity!

The next day when we were getting ready to go out, my daughter bit me. I did not have time to play games, so without thinking I gently set a limit. I picked her up and told her ‘’please don’t bite me.’’ She started to cry, very suddenly and powerfully. I sat on the floor, as I cradled her in my arms. After that day my daughter stopped biting completely! I also began to see other signs, that she was discovering her natural confidence. Whereas before she would often be clingy and wanting to be picked up all the time, she now plays independently, at least some of the time. And I feel more at ease and accepting of what’s happened. Her birth may have not been what I wanted, but she can recover from this early trauma, using the natural healing process of laughter and tears. I’m letting go of my regrets about her birth because that was a time when I didn’t have many choices. As she grows up, I can make the choice of how I parent her, ensuring that she will grow up without violence, only love.

Need more help with aggression? Check out my 20 Fun Playlistening Games for Healing Aggression. Hand in Hand parenting also have an online self study course, No More Hitting.