Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

The Lighter Side of Parenting

Using humor to discipline and teach children.

Using Play When Disciplining Older Children

With older kids, like 5- or 6-year-olds, play is a great way to learn how they're feeling about issues at school.

"A lot of these kids will spontaneously come home and play school, and they'll want to be the strict teacher and you the student who's getting in trouble," Cohen says. "They'll exaggerate and make it very dramatic, just taking some of the emotionally difficult things and bringing them to the play zone."

What about using play to teach things like respect and manners? Try using stuffed animals or hand puppets -- but you really have to get into it! Give one puppet great manners and the other terrible manners -- but both should be fun, super silly, and exaggerated. The goal again is to relieve the tension that gets in the way of them spontaneously being polite and thoughtful.

In Cohen's house, once a month the family has an April Fool's dinner, where they put food coloring in everything, drink from vases instead of glasses, and use serving bowls and serving spoons. "We're just as goofy as you can get, and it's really fun. Then it's easier for us to ask the kids to follow our rules the rest of the time."

Does Playful Discipline Spoil Children?

Cohen is quick to stress that disciplining children with playful parenting is not the same as spoiling children. In fact, he says, spoiling doesn't make a connection at all.

"If you're giving in to a child's whining because you just can't stand it another minute, that's not making a connection. But if you give a warm hug, or say, 'Hey, let's play a little game first,' that's not spoiling a child or going against your values. Giving the whole box of cookies because you don't want to hear the whining, that's going against your values."

You may be thinking: But shouldn't disciplining children be -- well -- disciplinary? Isn't responding to bad behavior with play just rewarding it?

Think about discipline like food, says Cohen. "Most children and adults get cranky when they're hungry. Just because they're cranky doesn't mean we're not going to feed them. Connection is also a basic human need -- children will literally die without it. It's not optional, and it doesn't make sense to think of it as a reward for bad behavior. Think instead that the bad behavior is coming from disconnection, so the solution is reconnection."

1 | 2
Reviewed on August 04, 2010

Today on WebMD

preschool age girl sitting at desk
Article
look at my hand
Slideshow
 
woman with cleaning products
Slideshow
young boy with fever
Article
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

WebMD Special Sections