My daughter has just turned 8, and as she's grown I've become increasingly frustrated when she doesn't help around the house. When she doesn't help tidy up, I start to feel like a ‘slave.' It's not a great feeling.
I know that play and playlistening works well for these types of issues, but recently I've felt that there's not enough time to get playful. In our house, tidying up is always done in a hurry. I always seem to be trying to get somewhere else afterwards, so I just end up being a moaning Mummy instead. That's not anyone's idea of fun!
How Nagging Gets Results
We recently had some holidays and relaxing at home, away from the routine of daily life, made life feel more spacious. I had a brainwave.
My daughter had a big pile of clean clothes to put away. It had been sitting there for days and i'd asked her a few times to put it away. I asked, once more, but I could see she didn't want to.
Finally I got a flash of inspiration and I said to her, “Actually, I'm so happy you won't put it away because I LOVE nagging you about it. If you do put it away, I won't have anything to nag you about so PLEASE don't!
This was all she needed! With a glint in her eye, she moved towards the clothes.
I gave her some mock threats: “Don't you dare put that washing away and spoil my fun at nagging you!”
She really started to laugh at this. Then she picked up her clothes and moved towards her bedroom.
“Please don't put those away.”
I was getting dressed, but I kept calling out to her. “Do not tidy up!” I said. “I love nagging you.”
“Oh! I won't be able to nag you once you've put your clothes away.”
She continued to laugh and then called me into her bedroom.
She had put the whole pile away in less time than I thought possible! I pretended to be upset, but then I saw some more clothes on her ladder where there is always a big pile, and I said, “Well, at least those clothes are still messy. I can nag you about those! Please don't put those away!”
Then I left and went in another room.
Two minutes later she called me back. She'd tidied every single item into her wardrobe.
I pretended to be so disappointed that wasn't able to nag her any more, and she turned to me and said, “What else do you want to nag me about now?”
Why Play Works In Power Struggles
“Playlistening helps children build cooperative relationships, and it can take the sting out of being instructed, guided, directed, and taught by adults day in and day out,” Patty Wipfler says in her book, Listen: Five Simple Tools To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges. Simply, laughter lightens the heaviness around a subject, and dissolves the power struggle between adults and kids.
Play works well in many situations, and is just as effective with tweens and toddlers. Here are some more ways play can help in troublesome situations.
Have you ever reversed roles in play like this?