5 Common Mistakes We Make When Playing With Our Children
We've all been there, one second we're playing and everything seems to go great, the next they don't want to play with us anymore. What went wrong? Odds are, we made one of the 5 most common mistakes all parents make. Here they are and what to do instead!
1) Don't correct your child. Picture this scenario: your child picks up an owl and decides it's a parrot and he's a pirate! You say "No Charlie, that's an owl, see? What sound does an owl make? Who, who. That's an owl." Gone is the pirate scene and probably Charlie's excitement. What to do instead: remember the first rule of improv, YES, AND! Yes, that's a parrot, you are a pirate, AND we're looking for treasure... build on their ideas instead. They may not like the idea and say "no, we're on a ship!" and that's fine; you simply go along and say "oh, yes that's right, we're on a ship!" Don't take their rejection personally :)
2) In a similar way, don't turn play into homework or an academic chore. Don't grab things around you and "quiz" your child by asking them to tell you what animal that is or what color the blocks are. Free play or symbolic play is a "right brain" activity, while language and academic work are a "left brain" activity. If you want your child to really become immersed in fantasy and symbolic play, leave the left brain out of it ;)
3) Don't threaten or take things personally when things get aggressive. Set boundaries in a playful way. If you are roughhousing, playing with swords, nerf guns, etc., just show your child how rough they can be. Don't use phrases like "I won't play with you anymore if you hurt me." This creates shame an
d will turn play into a power struggle. Use language like "wow, you hit me really hard! I wasn't expecting that" or "I know you're really excited right now, and you want to hit really hard, but I can't let you hurt me; how about you hit the pillow instead? I can hold it for you." The idea is to set a boundary and an outcome in which you both get what you want.
4) Don't hijack the play. If your child is going somewhere you don't like with the play, don't try to distract them or turn things around by creating your own story. Your child will not respond well to this. If things are getting too aggressive, voice your concerns as shown in #3. If there are other reasons, try to figure out where your child is going and why you may feel uncomfortable and maybe have an open conversation about it.
5) Don't get distracted. Children give in to play whole-heartedly, and, when you are their play partner, they expect the same from you. If you are invited to play, PLAY. Don't be on the phone or on your iPad or elsewhere. Be present and connected. They are inviting you into their world and that needs to be taken seriously and with respect <3