It’s such a common fear – am I “rewarding” my child’s bad behaviour if I move in with play? Will they learn that if they behave in that way, they’ll get your loving attention? Will that lead them to deliberately behave in that way just to get your attention?
Responding playfully is probably the completely opposite to how your parents responded to you. And it’s the opposite of much advice that’s out there.
But when you really understand what your child is actually needing in those challenging moments, then it all makes so much sense.
It’s important to remember that when your children are behaving badly – there is a really valid reason why they’re doing so. For them. It may not be for you. But there is for your child.
Also remember that your child is essentially good, loving & wants to cooperate and connect with those around them – especially their family. So when they’re not being all of those things, there’s something going on for them. The more stressed or upset they become, the worse their behaviour gets. Their impulse control goes, their ability to remember consequences goes, their rational thinking goes, etc.
It’s in those moments that they NEED your help.
What’s the best way to help someone? Connect with them first. And then stop them, guide them, understand what’s going on and help them. You can’t do any of those things properly if you don’t connect with them first.
And what’s one of the best ways to connect? Play & laughter. Obviously not always. There’s definitely times when it’s more important to connect through listening to upset feelings rather than be silly.
But 8 times out of 10 your child will respond really well to play. And the chances of this happening increases dramatically when you move in early. Not waiting and hoping that their behaviour will magically improve, but moving in early – getting close and offering connection – ideally as soon as you start to notice their behaviour is going off-track.
Because you DO need to stop your child when they are behaving aggressively or in a challenging way. It’s obviously not helpful, or sometimes safe, for those around them for your child’s behaviour to go unchecked. Your child needs help in stopping.
But that doesn’t mean it has to be a harsh way of stopping them.
You CAN be playful about it.