The Lighter Side of Parenting
Using humor to discipline and teach children.
Putting Play to Work: An Example
Say that you have a strong-willed toddler who fights getting changed --
diaper changes, getting dressed, getting undressed. Every change is a battle,
and you've resorted to just holding her down and wrestling her like an
alligator into her clothes. Instead of disciplining your young child in
frustration, think of what you can do to make getting dressed fun:
- Find a play time, and then say, "Let's play the getting-dressed
game," suggests Cohen. Maybe try dressing up all her dolls and stuffed
animals. Just don't try out your new game for the first time when you really
need to get out the door; wait for a good time, then take it to the "play
zone." "The problems always occur in the serious zone," Cohen
- Or have your child choose your clothes and be the boss and dress
you! Or maybe race around the house at top speed, waving her snow pants or
diaper, insisting she has to wear them while she's squealing and giggling and
- "Stumble and fall and let her get away, and she'll laugh and
laugh," says Cohen. The miracle is that all that laughing and goofiness
loosens up the tension that has gotten connected to getting dressed for some
reason. Play is the way kids release tension.
Remember that not every playful approach you try will work. "You have to
be willing to try lots of different things." says Cohen. "I'll have
parents ask me 'How did you know just what to do with that child?' and I'll
say, 'I tried 10 things and the first nine didn't work.'"
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