My reviewrating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is a must read for those in the attachment parenting camp, and any other parent wanting to have more fun, more connection and more happy times with their children. Cohen gives concrete examples of how to connect with kids using play, including rough-housing, games, silly antics and everyday activities.
Children "misbehave" when they are disconnected. In order to reach the kids, we need to re-connect. The best way to do this is in the language of children - play. We have to look at challenges not as something to fix in the children, but as a problems to solve together with the child/ren. We must allow children to express their feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, joy, etc. even when it is uncomfortable for the adults. Until the emotions are fully felt and released the kids carry them around. Eventually those feelings come out in the form of bullying, disobedience, violence, recklessness, etc. Cohen's big idea is that isolation and disconnection are the cause of problems in families.
Reading this book has already changed my life, by changing the way I look at life with a two year old, and even my behavior. One idea that will stay with me: say "yes" as often as possible. So often we go on automatic pilot and say "no" to every request and idea. But most of what children want to do or ask is really not worth a "no". Children should be given the chance to try new things (within safety limits, although we often exaggerate the danger in a outing, challenge, game, etc.), they need to learn new things, try to solve problems and explore the world with their senses and intellect. This idea doesn't mean your child gets to eat candy every night for dinner or gets every toy that crosses her path, but it means to open yourself up to the fun and unexpected learning in everyday activities and unexpected adventures.
My life is easier because when faced with a whining or negative toddler, I make a funny face, dance a silly dance or just give him a big tight hug. Most of the time things turn around right away and we get back to having fun or accomplishing the task at hand. Connection is the key. Kids want and need our attention. They will get it any way they can. Instead of punishing unwanted behavior, why not examine your own reasons for considering it unwanted or "bad", and then see a way to work it out with the child. Maybe your kid is just bored or lonely or tired, not determined to make your day a living hell. Parenting is a contact sport, not a passive activity.
One tactic mentioned a lot on the book is just simply falling down like a fool, another is wrestling. Physical contact is key to connection. You also have to be willing to play the fool. Your child feels like a fool so often in their lives, they don't know all the answers, feel awkward in social situations, get told what to do by everyone; so once in a while it would be nice for us parents to play the fool, let the kid be the leader, the smart one, the winner. Yes, Cohen suggests that we lose on purpose to our kids, and play up to their limits. In beating us, kids grow confident, learn the game and get to be the victor. Who doesn't like to win? Our egos should be able to handle the lose, and some day the kids will ask us to stop letting them win.
Cohen acknowledges that sometimes the last thing we want to do is get on the floor and play Barbies or build a blanket fort, but that's the work of parenting. Through play we connect, we bond, our children grow to trust us, and we lay the groundwork for all the big things that lay in the future. It is time intensive and occasionally boring, but playful parenting is also fun, joyful and a great learning experience. I hope I keep up the good work.
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