Using creative playfulness in parenting

YouthZoneKaren NadonGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

In a commercial on TV, a young boy of around ten takes a one-liter bottle of soda out of the refrigerator and begins to shake it. As he shakes it, the pressure builds until the lid pops off, and the soda sprays the mother. Angrily, the mother spins around and says, “What is wrong with you?” At this point, you’re waiting to see what punishment this mom is going to mete out. Will she ground him, lecture him, take away pop privileges for the rest of his life? Instead, her face takes on a mischievous grin. “This works much better,” she says, grabs the sprayer and the two of them have a water and soda pop fight. Watching the commercial, you may be left wondering whether the mother just encouraged irresponsible behavior. Shouldn’t she come up with a consequence to ensure the child is more careful with his sodas in the future? Should we as parents sit down with our children and warn them of the dangers of shaking pop bottles in the house? The makers of this commercial were not thinking about illustrating a parenting principle. They were intent on promoting their product – paper towels – yet inadvertently they demonstrated an important principle that often gets lost in parenting. Playfulness.Parenting is, after all, serious business; we have impressionable young minds to mold and precious little time in which to mold them. While this is certainly true, it’s possible to lose sight of the importance of fun, silliness, and spontaneous humor.A healthy dose of playfulness is an important part of parenting. It can disarm anger, and it can work wonders in the parent-child relationship. One mother was having problems with her teenage son, so she tried an unconventional silly approach. She rounded up some of her friends, and when her son became oppositional, they came over, wearing bold lipstick, and covered his face with bright lip prints. He was taken by surprise, and his anger melted away. The mother made her point, and he didn’t lose his temper. Parents are often so consumed with our children’s problem behaviors that the relationship suffers. Using playfulness can teach a lesson and strengthen the relationship simultaneously. Another mother was frustrated because her young daughter ignored her when she called. She realized yelling wasn’t working, so she set up a practice session, and she and had her daughter practiced either coming when she called, or responding that she would be right there. The mom was playful and silly in the training session, and found she got the behavior she wanted, with an even better relationship.There is no question that parenting is a heavy responsibility. Yet sometimes what is called for is a sense of humor and playfulness. An occasional injection of fun can evaporate anger and strengthen the relationship you have with your child. While it’s not recommended that you trash your kitchen in order to bring playfulness into your parenting, it will pay off to add some spontaneous fun.Karen Nadon is a YouthZone counselor.

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