Yesterday my 8-year-old daughter had a friend playing at our house all day.
There were lots of arguments and power struggles over their play. It wasn't going well.
The other girl said that she wanted to go home a few times and both of them didn't look like they were enjoying themselves.
I was trying to get stuff done while they were playing, but I realised they needed some support.
I stopped what I was doing and went and listened to them both.
Listen and Then Connect
They both said what they wanted to do but they couldn't agree on anything. So I offered to play Lego with them. They liked that idea, and they both wanted me to stay and we spent a long time having fun. They both really enjoyed their interactions with me.
After a while I tried to get back to what I was doing, and for a while it was ok but then they began to argue again.
How Play Helped The Fighting Stop
So I went back to them and started to think about what Playlistening game I could bring to their play. I realised I'd have to be careful here because my daughter is getting older. She has enjoyed my Playlistening games for many years but now if I don't come up with fresh ideas they don't often work for her any more.
I took my time to think of an idea and then I got inspired. I grabbed two of her dolls and held them. I made them begin chatting to each other about my daughter and her friend.
One doll said “Listen to these two girls, they are just arguing, they will NEVER agree what to play with together” and the other doll agreed, “No they just can't agree what to play with.”
The girls started to smile and get interested.
Then my daughter's friend said that the dolls were stupid and should be quiet. I was glad. The tension was starting to move towards the dolls and not between the girls any longer.
Encouraged, I continued. So the doll said “Did you hear that, she called us stupid, we are NOT stupid!”
The friend continued to tell them to be quiet.
This game went on for a little while… back and forth, back and forth, until suddenly the girls decided to do some face painting together.
They spent the rest of the afternoon painting their faces (and mine) and dancing to songs from Mamma Mia. They didn't argue for the rest of their time together and, when it was time for the friend to leave, said happy goodbyes.
Why it Works:
A little bit of laughter and connection can be all it takes to help children release brewing tensions. Stephanie moved in fairly quickly when she realised the girls weren't resolving their issues with one another. This connection meant that their emotions didn't escalate out of control, into a loud argument or fighting. Sometimes that warm presence is enough to soothe those bad feelings and turn them around, but in this case Stephanie needed a little extra to tide them over. She used Playlistening. By projecting towards the dolls, both girls were able to step outside of themselves and shed the tension they'd been feeling. After this, they were able to play happily for the rest of the day.
For more ways to make parenting easier get 5 Revolutionary Ideas That Make Parenting Less Stressful
You can also see how laughter and play can help even when kids get aggressive in 20 Playful Ways To Heal Aggression