Dr. Seus quote:“It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”
Most people would never imagine they would need help learning HOW to have fun.
But when you are in a stuck place with your child – very often having fun together is one of the first things that slips away!
In the safety of my office, many parents have quietly whispered, “I know this sounds awful to say, but I don’t really like being around her.”
It’s not awful – it’s honest! And if you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone.
And, based on what I’ve observed over the years, it probably makes complete sense considering the dynamics you’re facing.
Negative patterns can rob us of joy in our relationship with our child and in our home. Your child may behave in a manner that creates a true challenge when trying to connect and have some fun. Most parents then respond in frustration, or by “pulling back” and avoiding the very thing their child needs the most – playful connection.
It’s a very common cycle that parents fall into when their child is exhibiting difficult behaviors – and someone has to break the cycle.
And, that challenge falls to us, the adults.
So, mom and dad, you have to KNOW HOW.
If playfully interacting has been a challenge for you lately, here are some quick thoughts for how you can infuse some fun this week:
- Start by playing together, not competing against each other.
Select play options where you are building things together – like Legos, play doh, blocks, or coloring. If your child can handle the “pop” when the timer goes off (you can prep him/her for what it will sound like), Perfection is a great option. It’s the two of you working as a team to beat the timer.
- Keep it short, and hopefully sweet.
For the love of all that is peace – do not play Monopoly if having fun is a challenge in your home. Select something that can be accomplished within a reasonable amount of time – based on your child’s attention span/frustration tolerance level. Tossing a ball, shooting some hoops, having a dance party, or riding a bike may be great ways to keep an active child engaged. Start small and you can then stop when he seems to have had enough.
- Follow your child’s lead.
You may need to guide the choices, but offer options and let your child pick. Having some “buy in” to what she is playing is often helpful. Let me encourage you here – you may dislike what your child wants to play – but you are letting her lead. Remind yourself that playing together is like making direct deposits into your relational bank.
- Just have fun yourself!
If your child “doesn’t want to do anything” or “complains about everything” – try sitting down and having some fun yourself. Pull out the adult coloring book or play-doh and just relax. Sit on the floor while watching a movie and start to put some legos together. Step outside to shoot some hoops with a quick, “hey if you want to play, I’ll be outside.” If your child seems to be checking you out, (the walk by/look/try to act like she doesn’t care move) – just casually hand her a colored pencil, a tub of play-doh, or toss the ball her direction. Super nonchalant – don’t make it a big deal. If he engages great, if not, it’s ok. Work on ensuring that your attitude reflects that he is always welcomed and invited. People are often drawn into fun when others are having a good time. Keep your expectations in check and work on not allowing your feelings to be hurt. If your child joins you, wonderful. If not, there is next time, and you can still enjoy some fun yourself (you probably need it!).
- Discuss expectations BEFORE you begin to play.
The key here is to think through the bumps in the road you usually hit (maybe difficulty waiting for a turn, quitting before the game is finished, or melting down when someone else seems to be winning, etc.). Talk about what the expected behavior looks like and then do a quick practice. Keep it light and playful- for example, “Ok, so let’s practice when one of us gets to move ahead and the other ends up sliding down the ladder – what should we say? How should we handle that?” Young children will laugh as you roll on the floor whining as you pretend to have a meltdown when she moved ahead of you. She will quickly tell you what good sportsmanship should look like instead. Then you can ask her to show you how it’s done.
- Catch your child doing RIGHT. While you are playing together, pay attention to positive choices/moments (however small they may be) and affirm them when you see them. I call this “watering what you want to see grow.” Be specific. For example, “thank you so much for handing me the spinner when it was my turn!” When children are having fun they can more quickly learn new important skills, and having fun together can enhance your attachment/connection.
Mom, dad, you got this!
Walking with you,