Play Helps Dissolve Frustration

nightgownBefore bed, my daughter and I had a fun Special Time together doing whatever she wanted. When the timer beeped (signaling the end of Special Time) she happily trotted off to her room to change into her new nightgown and get ready for bed. Within a few minutes though, she returned very unhappy.

“This nightgown is too short and I’m cold,” she complained.

“Yeah?” I replied. “Do you want to wear something else?”

“Ugh!” she growled. “I hate it! I don’t want it! You can just donate it!”

Since she was so happy after our time together I wasn’t sure what had shifted. I suspected the nightgown wasn’t really the issue, but sometimes I wonder is it the clothes or is she just needing something to get upset about? Only time would answer that question so I decided to stay close, available and calm to see what she would show me next.

I followed her into her room where she took off the nightgown and threw it into the laundry basket. I opened her drawer and pulled out her favorite jammies. “Do you want these?” I asked.

“Ugh!!” she growled again as she grabbed them from me and put them on.

I wanted to offer her my warmth and support for whatever was coming up for her, but wasn’t sure what direction to go. Did she need more connection through play or just my quiet presence and listening?  So, I said, “I noticed you were pretty happy a few minutes ago. And now, it’s like PHEW! all this stuff’s gotta come out.” I waited for her response to clue me in to what she needed.

She made some more ‘growly” noises, but then looked at me playfully and said, “Yeah! I just need to wrestle you!”

“Alright!” I said enthusiastically. Play was the way to go!

We wrestled for a little while. She laughed hard and came up with some new wrestling moves. We had a lot of good, non-stop giggles. When I was ready to stop I gave her a big hug and said it was time to brush teeth. She transitioned easily.

While we were in the bathroom she said, “I’m really hot, maybe that nightgown is a good idea.” She went back to her room and changed into her nightgown.

Just as I suspected, the nightgown wasn’t the issue. Just a little tension that needed to be released through a fun time wrestling and laughing with mom. Connection and play saves the evening again!

– Michelle Pate, Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant
Join one of her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding classes starting May 22nd @ 6pm Pacific Time OR May 23rd @ 10:30 am Pacific Time —– You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Pillow Fighting Saves the Day

Photo (C) Joshua Tan 2007

A friend, her grandson, my daughter and I went on a ski weekend together.  My daughter is almost 9, and her grandson is 12.  He has a very hard life–this weekend was, among other things, an attempt to give him a fun time and some connection with us away from the difficulties of home.

He took some ski lessons on the first day, and learned  quickly.  He was fearless on skis.  It was a bit of a problem, actually. On the lifts, he kept wanting to lean over and spit down onto the snow. From 30 feet in the air, I didn’t think it was safe for him to lean out like that, so I kept asking him to sit back. He kept wanting to go down hills that had jumps on them, too, although he was still new at skiing.

So we all had a full first day and a really rousing card game that night, in which the kids won and we adults lost miserably in the midst of lots and lots of laughter.  It was really fun.

The next morning, he was saying that he was going to go down the runs with jumps. My friend, his grandma, said, “No, you’re going to go down slopes that you can handle, so you don’t hurt yourself.”  That was too much for him.  He hung his head, went over to the bed, and curled up silently in fetal position.

My friend and I thought for a moment, “What shall we do?”  My daughter went over to him and asked him something like, “How come you went back to bed?  Are you sick or something?” but he wouldn’t say a word.  He had dug deep into bad feelings.

Then, I said, “Let’s go pull him out!”  My friend said, “Really??”  and I said, “Sure!” and went over and grabbed one of his ankles and began to drag him across the bed. He began to kick and struggle, but I kept it on the fun side, just kept dragging him and begging him to come with us.  He got me back onto the bed, and I started throwing pillows at him, and he began to laugh and get into the pillow fight.  At one point, his grandma tried to hang onto him–that was too much, and he began to get upset.

I thought, “No, we aren’t going to be able to handle a big upset right now!” so I got her to let him go, and we kept on pillow fighting and wrestling for a long time–10 or 15 minutes. It was really fun, lots of laughter and good tussling.  When I was getting tired, finally, I yelled, “OK, who wants to go SKIING?!” and he and my daughter jumped up, put their fists in the air in a victory V, and said, “We do!” and they hopped into their jackets and boots, did everything they needed to do quickly and cooperatively, and we went off to have another great day.

– a Parenting by Connection parent