Giggle Parenting For Getting Up In The Morning

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As I talked about in my previous post, I’m trying to adjust my daughter’s sleep so that she can wake naturally for Kindergarten in the morning rather than me having to wake her. Until that happens we’ve thought of a fun way to start the morning off and get the giggles flowing; a radio alarm clock!

My daughter’s eyes lit up when I said we could get a free radio alarm clock with our Co-op supermarket points, and that could wake her up instead of me. She doesn’t really like to talk to me for the first few minutes of waking up and prefers to be left alone.

Then I realised there is a much more modern version. I downloaded an alarm clock app (bedr alarm clock radio in itunes) for my phone which will wake you up with a choice of hundreds of different radio stations from around the world. If you don’t like the idea of mobile rays floating around your sleeping child’s brain then you can also put it on airplane mode and choose songs from your own itunes selection.

This morning my daughter started dancing around happily the instant she woke up and heard the music. Then I put the alarm on snooze but didn’t tell her. A minute later the music started up again. I acted all surprised and confused saying, ”Hang on, what’s going on. I thought I turned that off.” My daughter started dancing again and laughing at my confusion. ”Okay, let me try again,” I said. ”I’m sure it must be off now,” and then I snoozed the alarm again. Cue lots of laughter and dancing as I repeatedly snoozed the alarm while pretending I was trying to turn it off.

If your child struggles with morning grumps, but loves music and dancing, then try this to wake up! I hope it helps your day start smoothly 🙂

Would you like to learn more about Giggle Parenting? Check out my introductory post here, Giggle Parenting: The Best Discipline Tool Out There!

Do you have a parenting challenge you’d like a giggle parenting solution to? Check out my Giggle Parenting Archives for solutions to common family challenges. If your problem isn’t listed, then leave me a comment or pm me via facebook and your challenge could be the subject of my next blog post! 

How To Stop ‘Doing’ Parenting And Simply Be A Parent

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Last week my daughter started Kindergarten, and I had written out a 3 page to-do list. I had planned out my schedule of all the things I was going to do, from learning German, to cleaning my house, making dinner every day and writing 3 more books. However I was so nervous about this new beginning I hadn’t got very far on my list.

This morning after dropping my daughter off, I finally felt like I could relax. This was the 7th day she had gone to Kindergarten, happy and excited. I finally trusted that she was safe there, and enjoying herself. And I went onto my balcony and curled up with Listen, the book about Hand in Hand Parenting by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.  And I wondered why I was feeling guilty.

My head was full of shoulds. I should tidy up the house before my daughter’s birthday party this weekend. I should prepare everything before we go out to the parent’s evening tonight. But instead I was reading this wonderful book, listening to the wind rustling in the trees, and looking at the sunshine. I felt guilty, but then I became aware of my body. I noticed how nervous and tense my muscles were. I remembered how last week, I’d relied on caffeine to get through the day and manage the strong emotions that I had about my daughter starting Kindergarten, even though it makes me feel even more nervous and edgy.

I thought of all the play I’d done every evening, all of the special times, and all of the tantrums my daughter’s had as she processes learning a new language, and being in a new environment every single day. I realised that being the parent of a school child is no less intense than being the parent of a child you are with all the time, because that child brings all their feelings home to you in concentrated form!

And I realised that the most important thing right then was to stop ‘doing’ parenting and simply ‘be’ a parent. I know that if I rush around the place that’s when I’m more likely to get stressed and shout. I knew that resting my body for an hour or so, would mean I’d be in much better shape to connect with my daughter when she got home. And so I took a guilt free rest, knowing it was the best thing I could do for my family.

In this world of doing, fuelled by the demands that our busy modern, capitalist society puts on us, we need to make a conscious choice to return to being, without guilt or apologies. You are doing a wonderful job, putting your heart and soul into caring for your little ones, and you deserve a rest!

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The Invisible River Of Feelings Underneath Our Lives

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Holy the mysterious rivers of tears under the streets! – Allen Ginsberg

Imagine the scene: your toddler throws their food onto the floor. You feel enraged, and want to shout. Or you might actually shout, particularly if you feel like they’re old enough to know better. What’s going on here? Parenting can be frustrating and exhausting, and when your child does things that almost seem to deliberately make your life harder it can leave you at breaking point.

The most important thing to know is that it’s not just about the food. Yes it’s a hassle to clean it up, and it’s a waste, and you might be worried about your toddlers’ eating habits, whether they’re getting enough vitamins, and if they are ever going to learn right from wrong. But it’s actually about much, much more.

When we are stressed the emotional part of the brain – the limbic system, senses a kind of emotional emergency, and the pre-frontal cortex- the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, and logical thinking can’t function as well. When this happens, implicit (unconscious) memories from our childhood get activated and often because we can’t think clearly we often tend to respond in automatic ways, often mirroring the way we were treated when we were children. That’s why we tend to lose our temper and act in ways we sometimes regret.

When we are having a hard time in the present, it’s often because these implicit memories start bubbling up to the surface, often without us being consciously aware of what’s going on. Even if you don’t act on these memories, if you don’t shout or hit your child, then they are still there in the background, whispering away, and making it hard to stay calm and relaxed.

When you look at a toddler, you’ll probably notice how much they are in the moment, and full of joy at the simple things in life. And if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know all about the healing power of tears, and how we can listen to our children’s upsets, play and connect with them, so in difficult times they can keep returning to their natural state of joy.

But what happened to us? When we were growing up most parents had no idea that we need to express our emotions, to release our feelings to recover our sense of joy. And so we gathered a lot of hurts which we carry with us to this day. It’s as if as well as the present moment, we also have this invisible river of feelings that flows beneath our lives, that we may not even be aware of much of the time. This is one of the reasons why parenting feels so hard.

When life gets tricky. When we get angry, or anxious or depressed, it’s like this river is calling us home, reminding us of who we were as children, and how we got hurt.

It’s not too late to return to our own joy. Think of your child and how much connection, and attention they need, of how they need an infinite amount of love, and listening, to feel good. Hand in Hand Parenting is an approach about listening to our children, but it’s also about joining together as a community of parents, to listen to each other, so that we can heal from our own hurt and pain. We call this listening partnerships, and you can find out more about them here.

Imagine next time your toddler tries to throw food on the floor, and you can react with lighthearted playfulness instead of frustration and exhaustion. It is really possible, when we begin to listen to that invisible river of feelings beneath our life.

To find out more about how our past effects our present day parenting and what we can do about it check-out my book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Our Children

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Diary of an imperfect mum

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A Healing Conversation With My Daughter About Birth

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This post was originally published in The Green Parent Magazine 

One evening just before bedtime my three year old daughter and I did some special time together. (Special time is one of the Hand in Hand parenting tools where we spend time 1-1 time with our child doing something that they love.)

We put all her babies to bed, and then my daughter started getting ready herself. As I was helping her, she asked me, ‘’how did I fit in your tummy with all the food in there?’’

I explained to her that she hadn’t actually been in my tummy but in a kind of sack called the womb. She asked to see a picture, so I found one on the internet and showed her. She then asked how babies came out so I explained a bit about this, and she asked to see a picture. I found a diagram (instead of a photo, which I wondered if it might be a bit graphic) and showed her that.

Then she asked ‘’how do babies get in the womb?’’ I wasn’t expecting to explain the facts of laugh to my daughter age three, but I found myself explaining a bit about sex, and how a sperm from the daddy joins an egg from the mummy.

She then began asking detailed questions about her birth. I told her how I had wanted her to be born at home, but she had been late. The doctor’s thought that it would be safest to help her to come out, so we went to a hospital. She kept asking what happened next, and then what happened next. So I explained about the drug they gave me, about contractions, and how it had taken a long time.

For each answer I gave there was another question from her. I described step by step what happened during the birth, in an age-appropriate way. I wanted to be honest, but I also didn’t want to flood her system with any information that would be overwhelming. The birth had been long and difficult and at one point her heart rate had dropped really low. I left that part out. I gave a short sentence or two of information for every question she asked, so that she felt in control of the conversation.

At one point, she looked upset, and I told her, ‘’did it feel scary to you? I’m really sorry it was scary.’’ She burst into tears and I hugged her. I explained that it wasn’t meant to feel scary, it was meant to feel safe. She cried for a while, and then asked some more questions.

I explained how when she was born they put her on my chest. She cried when I told her this and then asked what happened next. I explained the doctor’s needed to check her, so her dad had carried her to the other side of the room. She cried, and told her that her dad had been with her the whole time, that he’d been holding her hand, and talking to her. This made her cry even more. I explained how after that they gave her back to me, and she slept in the bed with me the whole night. She cried with relief. What happened next she asked. I explained how the next day she had woken up and smiled at me. She cried about that too.

In the back of my mind, I knew that this conversation was helping her to heal. Through Hand in Hand Parenting I have learnt, that crying isn’t always a sign that something is wrong in the present, but can often be a sign of healing from the past. Tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone, so when children or adults cry, they are literally releasing stress and tension from their bodies. Crying, in the arms of a loving adult, or laughter and play are part of our natural healing mechanism for recovering from difficult experiences.

Every time I offered reassurance to my daughter, every time I explained the safety of the situation, how their were doctor’s to look after her, and me and her dad were taking care of her too, she would let out another wave of crying. The more safety and reassurance I provided, the more she cried.

I knew it was important not to try and distract my daughter from this important conversation about birth even if it seemed to ‘upset’ her. I knew it was important to notice her feelings, and create the safety she needed to express them. I knew it wasn’t just answers she needed, but healing too.

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I hadn’t always felt comfortable telling my birth story, and I wouldn’t have always felt able to create a ‘child friendly’ version of it. I’d had my own strong emotions about how it turned out. I’d read so much about natural birth and how important it was for the baby’s well-being. I felt a lot of sadness that I’d ended up having an induction, and an epidural for medical reasons.

I talked a lot about the birth during ‘listening time.’ (Listening time is another one of the Hand in Hand parenting tools. It’s when two parents take turns talking and listening with each other about how parenting is going. The concept was developed by Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand. She discovered that talking about how parenting was going with a caring listener could help her release the feelings that got in the way of her being the parent she wanted to be.)

Listening time allowed me to have a good cry to release the regret that I hadn’t had the kind of birth I wanted. It was a space to talk through my decision to go with the medical advice to have the induction, even though it hadn’t felt completely ‘right’ to me. I came to some level of acceptance that the birth couldn’t of been any other way.

After that I could focus more on the positive aspects, that I had trusted my medical team to keep us safe, that my daughter had been born healthy.

Processing the birth meant that when my daughter asked me about it, I didn’t feel too triggered and emotional myself. I had a coherent story in my head about what had happened and why. I could tell her that the doctors were nice, and had done everything they could to keep her safe. Because I was no longer overwhelmed by my own emotions I could provide the sense of safety she needed to release her feelings.

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Healing is important, because the way we come into the world leaves a powerful imprint on us. In The Secret Life Of The Unborn Child he explains how birth is a profound experience that shapes our character. Through his research with adult patients he concluded that ‘if we are happier, or sadder, angrier, or more depressed than other people, it is at least in part, as a result of the way we were born.’’

Through work with his patients he found that although they didn’t remember their birth consciously, they could recall what happened when under hypnosis. This suggests that they did carry the unconscious memories of their pre-natal and birth life. They carried the emotional content with them and this effected their lives.

I don’t think anything about our child’s destiny is as fixed as Dr Verny’s research suggests. Bonding, and connecting with our children is the foundation for processing and overcoming challenging experiences.

When ‘The Secret Life of the Unborn Child’ was published in the 1980’s, it was not widely understood that crying is healing. Even now, although awareness is growing, it still remains parenting’s best kept ‘secret.’

When our babies cry we tend to think of it as a negative behaviour that we must stop as quickly as possible. We try to meet the needs of our babies, and when we can’t identify a particular need we tend to rock them, use a pacfiyer, ‘’shhh’’ them, or ‘’bounce them. We feel like a wonderful parents when our babies are smiley and at ease, or terrible parents when they cry for no reason and we just can’t get them to stop.

When my daughter was born I knew a bit about the healing power of tears. I was aware that she would need to cry to recover from her birth, but I didn’t understand that I would be trying to stop her from crying without even being consciously aware of it. I found myself bouncing her on the train just to keep her ‘quiet’ or feeding her when she was tired rather than hungry.

When we become parents, we come with our own history of how we were treated as children. Our parents probably didn’t know much, if anything about the healing power of tears. We may have been ‘shhhed’ or rocked when we cried. As we got older we may have been ignored, hurt, or told ‘’don’t cry or I’ll give you something to cry about.’’ We internalise these experiences and see crying as a negative behaviour that we must get to stop, even if we decide to choose more gentle ways than our parents.

Through learning more about the healing power of tears, I was able to bring my awareness to moments in which I was stopping my daughter from crying without even being consciously aware of it. I learnt that if she cried about having her nappy changed, or having a top pulled over her head, she might be using these everyday situations as a trigger to release bigger upsets.

I learnt to explain gently what I needed to do, listen to her feelings and wait till she was ready and had stopped crying. It was wonderful to discover we could do something together, when she happy and at ease with the situation, rather than rushing through and forcing her to do something she felt uncomfortable with or distracting her from her feelings with a toy. I also learnt to understand when she was hungry, or when she was asking to feed for comfort- which in actual fact was a sign she had feelings to release.

My daughter grew into a happy, well-adjusted, child – at least most of the time! I noticed she could be much more flexible than I ever expected a toddler to be. As Patty Wipfler explains our children are naturally, good, loving and co-operative. It’s upset feelings that cause them to ‘misbehave.’ When our children are free of feelings they can be their natural, good, loving, co-operative selves.

Despite all this the path of healing is ongoing and never perfect. There were opportunities that I may have missed because I didn’t fully understand how to allow her to cry, or the times when I didn’t have the energy, or patience to listen.

When she started a playgroup at age three, the separation seemed to trigger some deep feelings about her birth. She wanted to play in a physical way that related to being born. She would constantly climb over my shoulder, and tell me ‘’it’s your new baby coming through,’’ then she would land on my lap and make ‘’goo goo’’ noises. One time she made my legs into a diamond shape and told me ‘’this is the house where babies live and there are no grown-ups, and then they come out and see their mummies.’’

The play suggested that she remembered life in the womb, and her birth, perhaps not completely consciously, but in way that she could channel into play. Here was a context in which she felt safe to explore what happened.

My daughter has had a fear of doctors which seemed to be another sign that she hadn’t fully processed what happened to her. Since her birth we have only visited the doctor for minor reasons, but on one occasion, we had to visit a different doctor at the last minute. She became agitated and started crying, and refused to walk when I told her it was a man doctor. Also, she loves Peppa Pig, and whenever an episode came on that involved a doctor or a hospital she would ask me to skip to the next one.

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A couple of days after the conversation with my daughter about birth we were watching Peppa Pig together. The episode where Pedro breaks his leg and goes to hospital came on. My daughter recognised it instantly, but instead of asking me to skip it. She said tentatively, ‘’I’m going to watch this to see what it’s like.’’ She watched it all the way through with a smile on her face. Since then she’s watched all of the Peppa Pig episodes involving the doctor or hospital. She’s also had a lot of questions about doctor’s and nurses, and she’s continued to work through her feelings through doctor play. Her inquisitive discovery of the world continues.

I knew then that our conversation about her birth had been deeply healing. It’s as if that night I gave her the language to make sense of all of those unconscious memories she had been carrying.

The conversation didn’t start with words, but with me just being there, doing special time with her, and playing with her dolls, letting her know that I was available to listen.

Healing doesn’t always happen the night we bring our babies home from the hospital. It can happen months and years later. It’s never too late. Our children might want to laugh, play, talk, or cry. We listen and let them be their own guide. With our love and attention, they can lead themselves to healing.

For more information about our children’s ability to heal and recover from the stressful events in our lives check out my blog archives, or pre-order my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

The Five Step Plan For Preventing Early Wakings

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Early waking is common in children . In the summer months we might blame it on the light outside, or noises that your child hears that disturb their sleep. It might be that your child is unwell, or teething, or any of the other myriad reasons children have for waking. Or we might just put it down to being an inevitable part of raising little ones.

However all these things are usually just the trigger for you child to wake, the root cause often goes a little deeper. If your child is regularly waking up tired without having enough sleep, then one of the most common reasons is their sense of connection.

Children often wake in the night, or wake early, when they are feeling disconnected. Sometimes children just need their connection cups to be filled a little more. At other times they may be experiencing hurt feelings or stress that get in the way of feeling our warm presence and attention. This can cause them to seek out connection with us a little earlier than usual.

This week I’ve been hearing a lot of success stories from parents who are trying out Giggle Parenting at bedtime, with amazing results. Kids are sleeping through the night. Nightmares and morning grumpiness are reduced. Laughter when kids are in the more powerful role (or playlistening as we call it at Hand in Hand) is a powerful way to strengthen our connection with our child.

But simply adding laughter to your bedtime routine may not be enough to completely cure sleep issues. The Hand in Hand parenting approach consists of 5 tools to listen to our children’s feelings and build connection with them. Whenever we are struggling with our parenting we can use all five of these tools for the most effective results.

So here are your five tools to help prevent kids from waking early.

  1. Get Some Listening Time For Yourself – First get yourself a listening partnership, and read more about them in Hand in Hand parenting’s Listening Partnerships For Parents Booklet. The Hand in Hand parenting tools are a way of listening to our children that takes a lot of patience and energy. With your listening partner you can vent about how tired you are in a safe space. Talking and being listened to by a warm listener is a powerful way to prepare yourself to do the same for your child. Read more about listening partnerships here.
  2. Do Some Special Time In The Daytime – Next schedule some time to do daily special time with your child. This may not always be possible, but while you’re dealing with sleep troubles it’s great to attempt it most days. Even five minutes can make a difference. Let your child do something they love, and shower them with attention. With special time it’s really about the quality of the time rather than the quantity. Your child can internalise a deep sense of connection with you, that can help them relax and sleep well. Read more about special time here.
  3. Staylisten To Morning Grumpiness – When our children wake early in the morning in a bad mood, we often tend to assume it’s because they haven’t had enough sleep. However it’s most likely that the grumpiness is what caused the early rising rather than the early rising causing the grumpiness. If your child gets upset about something that seems small and inconsequential, then stay and listen to the feelings until they have finished crying. Tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone, and other mood balancing hormones. When children get to cry with a loving adult they can release all the feelings that get in the way of feeling closely connected to you. Without these upset clouding their thinking their sleep will be much more peaceful. You can read more about staylistening here, and if this is challenging for you, don’t forget step 1 😉
  4. Set Limits and Listen To Feelings – When your child wakes grumpy you may find yourself walking on eggshells trying to avoid an upset. A child’s early waking can effect the mood of the whole day, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When a child behaves in ‘off-track’ ways, it’s like they are waving a red flag to saying, ‘’Help! I’m not feeling good, and so I can’t think well.’’ Setting a limit on their unworkable behaviour is actually a gift to them. As we stop them from throwing toys, or hitting a sibling, in a warm and loving but firm way we can listen to the emotional upset behind their behaviour, and also heal their sleep. You can get a free Hand in Hand parenting guide to setting limits here.
  5. Giggles At Bedtime – This tried and tested method is scientifically proven. Add giggles to your bedtime routine. Anything that gets laughter flowing with your child in the more powerful role. Chase games, roughhousing and any silliness that puts you in the less powerful role is a guaranteed sleep inducer. Read more about giggles at bedtime in my friend Tara’s fantastic article here.

Tried all this and your child is still not sleeping? For more indepth help applying these tools check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online sleep course Helping Young Children Sleep. Or for personalised advice contact me for a free 30 min initial sleep consultation.

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Giggle Parenting Inspiration – The I’m Tired Game

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You may have noticed that when children say ”I’m tired,” they may not always mean it exactly. It could also be, ”I’m starting to feel some uncomfortable feelings, and I can’t think of any other way to tell you.”

If you’re walking along somewhere and your child starts telling you they’re tired and you suspect that feelings are the real issue then try this game. Chances our their energy will probably reappear in a flash!

On the way back from the park yesterday my daughter was complaining she was tired. I started saying in a playfully tired voice, ”Yeah, I’m tired too, so, so so tired…oh no hang on..I’m not tired, I’m full of energy!” Then I would start running a bit, and then say, ”Oh I can win now! I’m going to win the most energetic race! I hope no-one overtakes me!”

This was just the cue my daughter needed to run ahead to try and be the most energetic one. I stretched my arms out wide to playfully make it more hard to pass and we kept running together. As I made it more challenging for her to get by the giggles really started flowing, and then I let her win.

We repeated the game all the way home. Each time I would let her win (after a bit of a resitstance) so that she could feel her own stress and power and of course laugh at me!

This is the perfect game to release any feelings that are getting in the way of your child feeling their natural vitality. Walking with grown-ups can be hard for children. They may be suddenly aware of how small their legs are, or how out of control they feel being told where to walk and to hurry up!

Adding in some giggle parenting is the perfect way to empower your child, and build their confidence. This ‘running competition’ can also help release real feelings of competitiveness and sibling rivalry.

For 15 more playful tips for getting children to walk check out my post here. To learn more about Giggle Parenting check out Giggle Parenting: The Best ‘Discipline’ Tool Out There! 

Have you got a challenge you’d like the Giggle Parenting solution to? Check out the Giggle Parenting Archives, or send me a pm via Facebook  

Giggle Parenting Inspiration – Teeth Brushing School

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Our child’s natural state of being is to co-operate with us. And one of their number one ways to tell us they are feeling disconnected is to refuse to do something. Refusing to clean teeth seems to be one of the most common ways! So here is yet another fun teeth cleaning game.

My daughter has been role-playing a lot of classes lately. She goes to ballet class and art class and I know she’s thinking a lot about starting Kindergarten in August.

When she didn’t want to clean her teeth the other day, I started joking around about how it was time to go to her ‘teeth cleaning class.’ Then I got a cuddly rabbit who was the teacher. Except the rabbit would say things like, ”okay to clean your teeth you need to take your toothbrush and hide it under the duvet.” She would laugh a lot, and go and hide her toothbrush. Then I would act all frustrated with the rabbit and say, ”Rabbit! That’s not how we clean teeth, you need to tell R to put the brush in her mouth.”  Rabbit said all sorts of crazy things like you, need to hide in your room and shut the door, or you need to go and put your toothbrush in your shoe, or you need to put a sock on your toothbrush, and then put it in your coat pocket. The more crazy the situation the better! I would act all exasperated and  complain about what a terrible teacher he was.

After lots of laughter she was much more connected and her natural desire to co-operate was back.

Do you need more help with teeth-cleaning? Check out Giggle Parenting For Teeth-Cleaning and Emilie Leek’s article Using The Tools To Help With Teeth Cleaning has lots of suggestions and links. 

Giggle Parenting For Grumpiness

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If your child wakes up on the wrong side of bed, or gets whiney or grumpy it can be a sign of upset feelings under the surface that are causing them to feel disconnected.

Here’s a fun giggle parenting game to playfully add connection and shift your child’s mood. Put some music on if you’re at home, and pretend to phone someone up to order some ‘dancing energy’ for your child. Tell the person on the phone your child’s name.

Then start dancing across the room. Act all out of control, as if you can’t stop yourself from dancing. In a playfully frustrated voice tell your child, ”oh no! They’ve sent the dancing energy to me. This is not right!”

Phone back up, and complain to the person on the phone in a playfully grumpy voice. ”Hey you have sent the dancing energy to the wrong person. Please don’t send it to me, send it to (insert child’s name.” Spell out your child’s name to add emphasis.

Repeat with the person on the phone making all kinds of mistakes. They can send you crab energy, which makes you walk sideways. Or climbing energy, that gets you climbing on the sofa or table, as you frustratedly phone up the person to stop them from sending you the energy and try to send it to your child instead.

As your child laughs, their mood will shift, and the rest of the day should go much more smoothly.

Roughhousing Inspiration – Pillow Shop

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Roughhousing, or rough and tumble play is not just good fun. It’s a great way to build close connections with your child, and to help them to feel good, emotionally and physically. It’s also the perfect opportunity for some giggle parenting.

If your child has been grumpy, whiney, aggressive or acting off-track in any way, chances are roughhousing can help to release the stress and upset that causes their ‘misbehaviour.’

In The Art of Roughhousing Lawrence Cohen and Anthony Benedet share some of the amazing science that shows it’s benefits.”Play—especially active physical play, like roughhousing—makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, loveable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.”

Research has shown that roughhousing helps children develop empathy and that the amount of roughhousing children engage in actually determines how well they do in Kindergarten. So throw that homework in the bin and get giggling 😉

Just as with giggle parenting (playlistening) we want to make sure that we give our children the upper hand. When we roughhouse we should use our intuition to put up some resistance but let our child win in the end. There’s nothing more fun for them as they triumphantly giggle after pushing us over, or escaping our grasp. This is why with roughhousing we should never tickle as this makes children feel powerless.

One of the biggest myths is that roughhousing is just for boys. Girls need this play just as much. They need to build confidence in their bodies, and get a chance to feel their strength.

Roughhousing is perfect for bedtime to help encourage sleep. But having an impromptu session earlier in the day can be helpful particularly if your child is having lots of behavioural challenges, and lots of feelings to work through.

Sometimes it can be tricky to know how to get started, so this is the first in a series of post to share fun games to inspire you.

Pillow Shop 

Gather together all the pillows you own, and put them in a stack on your bed. Tell your child, in an inviting playful tone, that this is your pillow shop and it’s shut today. Tell them you hope they don’t try to come in and get pillows. Lean on the pillows, so that they have to wrestle you for them. Put up some resistance and then let your child grab pillows from under you and run away with them. Chase them, and let them escape. Go for whatever brings the most giggles while they remain in the powerful role.

We had a lot of fun playing this game. At one point my daughter was lying with her head on the big stack of pillows. I would act all playfully frustrated and say in an exasperated tone that she couldn’t try out the pillows, then I would grab one from under her head, and then act all surprised when I saw that she was still lying on the next pillow. I would repeat and repeat. Next I had some cuddly toys be the pillow shop ‘guarders’ and they would stand at the entrance to the shop and try and block her way. But she would always win.

You can build your child’s confidence giggle by giggle. I hope these lead onto many fun roughhousing ‘moves’ of your own, and if you have any games to share I’d love to hear from you!

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How Crying Builds Your Child’s Confidence

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Did you know that crying is one of the ways your child builds their confidence? Often parenting advice centres around avoiding our children’s feelings, and stopping tantrums. With Hand in Hand parenting we teach parents how to listen to their children, so that they can grow and shine, and be their natural, confident selves. 

On Friday’s my daughter goes to a playgroup. As we live in Switzerland, the group is in Swiss German, although my daughter does have an English speaking friend there.

Recently she’s begun saying that she doesn’t want to go, even though she’s been happy there for over a year. I feel reluctant to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. However when I ask if she wants to give up the playgroup completely she always says no, so I was pretty sure that the reluctance is more about fears and separation anxiety, than actually disliking it. I know she’s thinking a lot about starting Kindergarten in August which has increased her separation anxiety lately.

Yesterday her English speaking friend wasn’t able to go. As we walked up the hill to the playgroup she started complaining about how she didn’t want to go, and how tired she was I sensed that it wasn’t really she was tired, but that feelings were coming up about not having her friend there. So I set a limit, and told her that I was sure she could find the energy to scooter there.

She began crying, I kept walking, turning behind her and assuring her that she had the strength to catch me up. She cried for a while, and then was happy to keep scootering along.

When we got the playgroup, and it was the moment to separate from me, she started clinging to my leg. I unstuck myself, got down on her level, and told her that I was going to go. She started crying. We walked away from the other children and teachers for a while, and I listened to her. We went back and tried again. Still she was just staying stuck to me.

I knew she needed to have a big cry, to release whatever fears and anxieties were in the way of her enjoying the playgroup. But I wasn’t sure how to help her release those feelings. I also didn’t want to disturb the group.

In the end I could see no way out of the situation, so I decided that we would just go home. As we walked away my daughter started crying, and crying about how she did want to go! I listened to her until she had stopped crying. Then we went back over, and she chose one of the teacher’s to hold hands with. I left her happy and willing to give it a go.

When I came back later she was holding the hands of one of the other children. She had a big smile on her face. She told me she enjoyed it even more than when her friend was there! I think she actually liked the opportunity to connect with some of the Swiss kids as well, without her friend being there.

This is how listening can turn things around. If I’d have quickly left her, and rushed off while she was upset, she might have stopped crying, but she wouldn’t have got to release her feelings. She might not have been able to enjoy the playgroup with confidence if she was still feeling upset deep down. It was so much better to listen to those fears, and anxieties so that she could choose to go, without me forcing her, and have a good time.

When our children are faced with new situations they may feel stressed or nervous, particularly if it involves separation from us. Crying, and tantrumming are all part of our child’s natural stress-release mechanism for dealing with their feelings. When we listen without trying to stop or avoid their feelings, we can help our children to embrace life and live it to the full.

I like to give my daughter as much choice as I can in her life. I like to respect her thoughts, and ideas. When she initially told me she didn’t want to, we could of just turned around and go home. But I sensed that this wasn’t her deepest desire, or need. What she actually needed was for me to set a limit, to give her a chance to try.

When I’m due to give a workshop, , I often get incredibly nervous beforehand. All sorts of thoughts and feelings flood through my head. One time I sat on a train going to another city to give a workshop, and felt like I wanted nothing more than to get off at the next station, and head home! But actually, once I begin a workshop, and meet all the lovely parents, I end up having a great time and feel so fulfilled after sharing the amazing Hand in Hand parenting tools. I leave on a high, and immediately arrange another workshop, then as the time grows near the fears rise again! It has got easier with time though.

If I avoided giving workshops, because of my feelings, I wouldn’t get the chance t face my fears, and grow as a person. I know I need to do the same for my daughter.

It can be hard to give kids the push they need to embrace something that seems scary at first, but Hand in Hand parenting has taught me how to do it with love.

If you’d like to learn more about our approach to separation anxiety, check out my article 20 Playful Ways To Heal Separation Anxiety, or Hand in Hand parenting’s online Healing Separation Anxiety Course