This post by Positive Discipline Trainer Casey O'Roarty is part of our Growing Character series on the importance of play.
“Okay, let’s play.”
I am not a great player. I just don’t want to. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t know what that’s about... All I do know is that it seems like my kids are always dying to play with me.
My husband, on the other hand, is so good at playing. He wrestles and plays games in the backyard. He laughs and cheers, and the kids love it. I find myself wishing I could be that light and carefree with the kids, to just play.
Dan Siegel, in his book The Whole Brain Child; 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, writes about family fun as being a strategy for helping our kids shift from a “me” mentality to a “we” mentality. “We are hardwired for play and exploration as well as for joining with one another. In fact, ‛playful parenting’ is one of the best ways to prepare your children for relationships and encourage them to connect with others. That’s because it gives them positive experiences being with the people they spend the most time with: their parents.”
Dr. Siegel goes on to say, “The more they enjoy their time they spend with you and the rest of the family, the more they’ll value relationships and desire more positive and healthy relational experiences in their future.”
He then puts the cherry on top by highlighting how play enhances sibling relationships. Dr. Siegel writes, “Recent studies have found that the best predictor for good sibling relationships later in life is how much fun the kids have together when they are young.”
Knowing this doesn’t make it that much easier for me to want to play. Creating new habits is never easy… I recognize that I need to lighten up. I need to lighten up and remember that once I get out there and join in the play, I’ll be having a good time. Not only that, I am doing my children a huge service — modeling for them what it looks like to be a lighthearted adult, ready to choose playing with my family
And it turns out all you have to do is get up and DO IT. Instead of being an outsider watching this magic happen, I have taken a deep breath and joined in, and guess what? It is fun! Nothing is better than the look on my children’s faces, the excitement in their voice when they ask, “Are you playing, Mom? ” The laughter that ensues as the play continues fills me up. It is easy to play!
What has been coming to mind lately is that my kids are growing up so fast (I know, we all feel like that). My daughter is 10 and my son is 7. It won’t be long until they will be out on their own and I will be pining away for our time together (although I am also really excited for being a parent to my adult children). Right now, today, they want to play with me.
And I am going to start saying, “Okay, let’s play.”
About the Author
Casey O’Roarty is a Positive Discipline Trainer and owner of Joyful Courage, a company dedicated to training adults to create space for children to be their best selves. She is a former elementary school teacher with a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington. Casey has been sharing Positive Discipline with parents of the Skykomish Valley since 2007. She lives in Monroe, Washington, with her husband and two children, a 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.