By David Elkind
What's the matter? Nothing. Where are you going? Out. Do you
want to talk? No. Does this sound like typical communication between you and
your teen? If so, explore these tips for starting an open and frank discussion
about drugs, sex, self-esteem, and other vital issues. David Elkind, PhD, was
The opinions expressed
herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician.
If you have questions about your health, you should consult...
"Shhh! You can't tell anyone my secret name!"
If you answered d, you're what psychologist Larry Cohen, PhD, calls a
"playful parent." You've broken the tension with silliness and formed a
bond with your child -- who might just be so amused (especially if you continue
the game by declaring that your real secret name is Rice Crispies Cake)
that he forgets he didn't want to clean his room.
Why Humor Works in Child Discipline
Child discipline seems like a very serious thing -- and that's the problem,
says Cohen, the author of Playful Parenting and a play therapist.
It's a lot less stressful, and a lot more fun, to use humor and play to connect
with your child as you set limits and establish discipline. And disciplining
children with humor and play, he adds, leaves everyone feeling much better than
spanking children does.
The most important factor in child discipline, Cohen says, is the connection
between parent and child. "Play and humor isn't the only way to make that
connection, but it's probably the best," says Cohen, because play is a
child's world, it's "where they live." And when everyone's stressed out
and overloaded -- that's when we need play most.
4 Tips for Putting Play Into Child Discipline
So when your 3-year-old is battling over bedtime, or your 6-year-old has a
meltdown because he lost at checkers, how do you discipline your child
playfully? Consider these four playful tips from Cohen:
Voice yourself. Walk into your child's room and ask them to clean it
-- in a fake opera voice at the top of your lungs. Funny voices and using
different characters are a great way to diffuse tension.
Fall down. A lot. Especially with toddlers; they think it's
hilarious when adults fall down, since they do it a lot themselves.
Fake cry -- especially with boys. "There's such a taboo against
crying with boys that I do it all the time," says Cohen. "Kids will
experiment with teasing or some mild aggression, and I'll go 'WAAAAAAHHHH!'
They'll laugh and laugh and want to do it over and over again."
Game it. Set up games where they can be symbolically aggressive
without it being over the top, such as play wrestling and pillow fights.