Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Love Jail

I mentioned the book Playful Parenting a while back on Shannon's blog, and I was supposed to share suggestions.

I think the book is great, and I definitely recommend it, especially for parents who are struggling with discipline.

Here's a game I invented, based on his suggestions.

Love Jail: I capture Calliope against me (while I'm sitting on the floor), hug her tightly against my chest, and say, "You'll never get away! I'm way too strong to ever let you escape!"

And then, predictably, I let her worm her way out of my arms and sputter in mock surprise"Wait a minute, how did you do that?" while she giggles uncontrollably.

Rinse and repeat.

The author talks about how kids love pretending to be more powerful than their parents. Of course when kids actually have more power than their parents -- like when kids are allowed to make the rules in the family -- it's really scary for them. But in pretend, it's great.

So wrestling, and letting them win, is great.

Another one is asking them for something silly, begging, and letting them say no.

I do this with kisses. I ask Calliope, "Pleeeeease can I have a kiss??? Please, just one???" in this very exaggerated, drawn out, pleading tone. She grins and says "No!" gleefully and runs away. Then I crawl after her and plead again. Oh, the giggles this produces! (When I am leaving for work and ask for hugs and kisses in a more normal tone of voice, she clearly knows the difference and generally acquiesces.)

An overarching theme of the book is that even though it's uncomfortable, we grown ups need to spend some time on the floor, playing with their kids and letting them direct the play. Even if it's something we hate, whether Pokemon cards or video games or Barbies. I feel very lucky that Calliope's not yet interested in games that drive me crazy. Pokemon cards would be a real struggle for me. Mostly we do puzzles together. Or we sit down to read books at night and she looks at me sternly and says, "No Abby. No reading, Abby." And then she flips through the books and murmurs little comments to herself that generally have nothing to do with the story, "Hi Bink. Oh, you want to come on the bus? Okay? Okay!"

And I lie on the floor next to her and idly wonder if I will be asked to read or if I will just lie here until her reading time is up and it's time for bed.

I noticed how much I fail at this when we went to the Children's Discovery Museum in Acton, MA, over Christmas break. Calliope wanted to spend the whole time we were there, it seemed, in the first room. A very small room, which was cold because it was the gateway to the rest of the museum from the entrance. It was a train room, and she wanted to stand behind the mock ticket counter and stack up the play tickets and the play money and then shuffle them and do it all over again. Over and over and over again.

And I wanted to get out of that drafty cold room. And wanted her to see the cool play kitchen on the third floor. And mainly, just wanted her to get the best experience she could out of the whole museum.

I managed to curb my impulses for the most part, apart from the occasional "offer" to try another room, for about forty-five minutes. My nine year old niece wandered back after a while and she seem just as entranced by the mock ticket counter as Calliope.

It's really hard for me not to want to hurry her along, so that she can get "even more enriched" by some other enriching experience. It's so hard to let go of control and let kids move at their own pace when we grown ups are so sure we know better.


  1. That sounds great - I have this book on my shelf right now as it is one of many on my reading list for a training course I am doing! I think I will read it next based on your enthusiasm. It is hard to go at their pace I agree, but I am always really happy when I do manage it - BB notices so many things I would just walk on by!

  2. Hi Abby, I'm quite new to the whole SMC community, given that I'm in the "almost trying" stage (when exactely starts "trying"?), so I wanted to reach out to a few of you and I enjoy reading your blog very much! You always seem to have such thoughtful parenting advice! My blog is I'd be honoured if you find a minute to read it! :) Julia

  3. Aweeee you sound like such a good mommy! Just found your blog...thanks for sharing :)

  4. Love this post...thanks for sharing! I, too, am having to hold myself back to allow E to just play even if I find it boring.

  5. I read this when you posted it, and am finally getting the chance to comment. I love this game - we've tried it out and he loves it! I'm going to have to read this book.