Playlistening to Address Sibling Issues

brothersRecently in our family we’ve had a new baby. That’s brought all sorts of adjustments, of course, for my son. There are a few “playlistening” ideas that have been helpful, that others may find useful too:

1) Morning Special Time
There always seems to be so much that HAS to be done in the morning: getting dressed, getting food made, visiting the bathroom, changing diapers, getting ready for the day. Most of those, of course, are my agenda items, not my son’s. What really helps us is to have a short, 5 minute “Morning Special Time” that includes the baby, to start the day. Anything can wait five minutes before I get to it. And spending even that minimal time together enables my son to play on his own afterwards while I get the day going.”

2) Throw the Animals
We have a copious stuffed animal collection. One of the games that my son can identify as being helpful to do when he is mad is to throw the animals down the stairs. I stand at the bottom (I can do this with the baby in my arms) and throw them back up, being bewildered, of course, about how they keep coming back down. He laughs and laughs.”

3) Push Mom
We can’t do this when my son is actively angry, but it is great when I know that he is building up a number of frustrations. I sit on the bed (I can do this one holding the baby, too. The baby thinks it’s very fun), and my son stands at the far end of the room. Then I say, in as snotty and preachy a voice as I can, something like ‘Time to go to bed, Son’ or ‘Be quiet, don’t wake the baby.’ I keep repeating this while my son runs at me, and pushes me backwards onto the bed. Then there’s laughter, and it’s back to the starting gate to do it again–and again and again. Sometimes he feeds me my lines. I ask him what he’s mad at me about today. Often he prefers if I think of what to say on my own–I think it’s affirmation that I know that there are really annoying things that I say or do. Hopefully I never really say some of the lines that we use in this game, but overstating them and hamming them up seems to be part of the fun.”

— A mother in Winnipeg, Canada

* Playlistening is a way of playing with a child so that the adult takes the less powerful role in play. Children release lots of tension in their laughter as they get to be “swifter,” “stronger,” “smarter,” “in-the-know,” and the play helps them feel closer to the adult playing with them, and more excited about being themselves. For more information, please refer to our series of booklets titled Listening to Children.

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