If you’ve ever stood in a busy grocery store with a child in the midst of a full on meltdown, you know one universal truth: Children will act out, usually at the most embarrassing moment for you. When you can step back and understand that they are seeking your attention and validation, you can prevent and manage these moments with grace.
Think of all the hours in each day when you expect your children to cooperate and participate in your activities. From house chores and errands to remaining silent while you talk on the phone, and even dining out in restaurants. Are you matching each of these minutes with true connection with them in their world? Playtime is a child’s way of including you on their level and asking you to include them on yours. They don’t know how to negotiate this world as an adult, but they would like to show you what the world looks like to them.
Try the 30/30 rule. For every 30 minutes you need to accomplish something in the grown-up arena, spend 30 minutes on your child’s level playing, talking, reading and connecting. Keep it even and let your child lead the playtime. I promise you will have fewer meltdowns if you can stick with this one rule. (For toddlers, try 10/10. They may not have the attention span to entertain themselves for 30 minutes.)
O. Fred Donaldson, a world-famous specialist in the use of play as an alternative to aggression, violence and abuse, posted this morning on API Speaks on what we don’t understand about playtime with children. A five-year-old boy once told him, “Fred, you know play is when we don’t know that we are different from each other.” I invite you to read this short post Coming Out to Play, where Fred reveals the three patterns of play that he observed in children all over the world. (Here’s a hint: enrolling your child in soccer does not count as playtime.)
Grace and Peace.