Parenting a child with behavioral issues can be overwhelming.  What one would assume to be reasonable requests, such as, “please pick-up your trains” or “please hang-up your coat,” become teeth-gritting experiences.  These are real struggles for many, if not all parents.

I am excited to take you through a 3-part series on how to turn those everyday struggles into playful and meaningful connections with your child.  This series is best suited for parents of children ages 2 to 8 years.

When feeling stressed with a child’s behavior it is easy to become over-focused on discipline and forget about nurture or even fun. However, turning real struggles into a nurturing and playful experience can help remove the stress and create a joyful connection for both you and your child.  Adding “play” to your toolbox of parenting strategies will shape your child’s behaviors, decrease your stress, and bring more joy to your family.

Here are my favorite two examples of clean-up struggles turned into playful experiences. 

#1) The house is a mess with things lying everywhere.  Shoes and coats cover the floor near the doorway, mail is piled up, dishwasher needs emptied, and toys are scattered everywhere.  However, your kids have lots of energy and have been asking you to play with them. Sound familiar?

Time to play Hide-and-Seek Clean-Up!  Tell the kids “Mom’s going to count to ten in the kitchen while you go hide.”  Now, while you count loudly you also put away ten items from the dishwasher. “Ready or not here I come.”  Then, quickly pick-up an item that needs put away in another room. As you move about the house actively seeking your beautiful children, you also put away another item or two.  Give lots of verbal interaction making it even more enjoyable for the child.

“Is Johnny hiding behind the chair?” No, but you were able to quickly toss the throw pillows back on the chair from off the floor.  “Hmmm… Eleanor is not hiding in the coat closet, I wonder where she could be?” But you did get that coat hung up where it belongs. Then delight in your child upon finding them.  

Take your turn hiding.  Quietly put away an item or two that might be nearby where you’re hiding.  Once again, delight in your child and give lots of fun verbal praise. Play over and over.  

Did you and your children have fun together?  Yes! Did you get a few things put away and cleaned up that otherwise wouldn’t have been?  Yes. Then feel proud of your double success. You can also play this game by hiding a pre-selected small stuffed animal rather than hiding yourselves.  So, you take turns hiding and finding those beloved Beanie Boos while moving amongst the house getting a few things put away.

#2)  Time to clean the playroom. You know that asking your three and five-year-old to help pick-up the mess will only lead in responses of whining by them and yelling by you.  Change the stressful experience into a playful experience.

DANCE PARTY!  Pick an upbeat song that your children enjoy.  Say, “Let’s see if we can clean this whole room in just one song while having a dance party.”  Kids like a small challenge.

You may need to pick two or three songs depending on the size of the mess.  Put on the music and dance/clean away. You will need to dance and act silly yourself.  Give fun prompts to help your child along such as: “Julia, can you leap with this stuffed animal all the way to its basket?”  

Also, make sure to provide appropriate verbal praise.  Lastly, delight in all successes. “Wow, look at how much we got cleaned up in just one song!”  If your kiddos can’t seem to dance and clean at the same time, then try cleaning for one song followed by a dance party break on the second song.  

Continue to repeat until job is done giving dance party breaks between cleaning time.

It may not be perfect or completely done but hopefully, everyone had fun together with smiles and laughter instead of tears and tantrums.  The next time you ask your children to clean the playroom be prepared for your child to ask for music instead of responding with a tantrum.

Due to everyday struggles and busy schedules we often find ourselves lacking the ability to delight in our children.  Moments of shared joy become fewer and fewer.

Turning struggles and everyday tasks into playful experiences helps reshape behaviors and provides more enjoyable interactions.  At Kid Matters Counseling we have counselors ready to help you find more joy in your children through playful interactions.

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash

Cheryl Welsh

Cheryl Welsh

Child Therapist | LCPC, RPT

Parenting a child with emotional and behavioral needs can be overwhelming. I respect the courage it takes to engage in counseling. I strive to provide treatment that honors your values and traditions and help you connect with your child on a deeper level.

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Disclaimer: These writings should be considered a matter of personal opinion. They do not reflect professional advice. This medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and intimacy required to provide professional advice. If you are in need of consultation, I highly recommend you seek professional counseling. If at all possible, you should seek a reliable referral from a trusted source.

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