Who doesn't like unsolicited advice by a total stranger?

Book Review: Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen

I’ve been postponing writing about this book because I wasn’t inspired to write a review that made justice. It’s a wonderful parenting book that forces you to connect with your inner child. It is a book that makes you work on yourself to empathize with your children.

Mr Cohen parental style is based on play, mostly silly play and rough play. It’s very physical and can be hard to get used to as a stiff adult. Sorry, to call you stiff but with adulthood we lose spontaneity, empathy and the joy of playing. It took me a while to be comfortable doing goofy faces, falling dramatically and overexaggerating my gestures to connect with my son. But once got there, I vowed to never go back.

Much of the anger and frustration that come with parenting disappeared. If my son doesn’t want too to put his winter boots on a rainy day, instead of getting angry, I try to put them to the cat, talk to her about what a great day we are going to have at the park and I meow to my kid. I play. The cat becomes the child, the child becomes the cat. I invite my son to play the role of the cat. The role play becomes more and more histrionic. We giggle for a few minutes. Lots of stress is relieved and, finally, my son agrees to wear the boots. Sometimes this method makes things quicker, sometimes it takes longer than brute force. However, what is sure is that with this method we are more attached and happy.

My aha moment with this book was when we came back from the paediatrician. My son had some shots and was very sad. He didn’t understand what had happened. We tried to calm him but whenever he looked at his arm, he cried. I remembered Mr Cohen saying that children like to role play traumatizing situations, mostly with them in power. In these representations, the duller and frightened the parent pretends to be, the better. I asked my husband to pretend to be the doctor, I would be the child. As he approached with the vaccine I cried, I screamed very histrionically (very much like in a bad telenovela). My son got it immediately. He stole the pen (vaccine) from my husband and played the doctor with both of us. In half an hour he was his happy self again. For the following weeks, this was recurrent game. It made me feel so relieved to know that I had comforted him in this amazing way.

Since them, I try to apply this approach to as much situations as possible. It does not come naturally to me, as it isn’t how I was raised, sometimes I have to breath in an out a couple of times before switching on my silly mode.

As with all parenting books, I take notes from them and try to incorporate what I like to my own parenting style. If it doesn’t feel right, I don’t follow their guidance. This book made me work harder than other parenting books because I had to work on my fear of ridicule.

Another big component of this parenting style is physical play. I had to learn to play rough, to wrestle, to jump up and down, to get my knees on the ground, to get dirty… I was a very tranquil girl growing up, so this is new to me. But I see how my son needs her mom to roll on the floor with him and run up and down the house hunting ghosts and I do it. I also had to learn to be more present, this means putting the smartphone away, TV and music off and adult issues out of my mind to ensure that when we play, we just play.

I strongly encourage you to read this book. It has helped me immensely with my two-year-old and I see myself reading it again when he is a preteen.

Best of lucks!

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