Back in June, I posted this video about the story that a picture that my daughter had drawn for me.
I would recommend that you check it out before going much further as this re-visit is an update comparing the previous picture and the story it told with the new picture and the story it tells about mine and my daughter’s relationship.
This last weekend Olivia drew several new drawings for me and I chose one that she was very proud of and talked me through at length.
How to get a child to tell you why they were naughty
Children are inevitably naughty at times. My daughter is no exception
Trying to ask her about why she was naughty and does she understand why she’s being told off can be somewhat of a frustrating exercise because she will normally close down, not meeting my eyes and not talking at all.
A friend of mine gave me a great way of helping us get through that self wall:
Make the naughty thing separate from the child and from the present.
Instead of telling her that she’s a naughty girl, tell her that it was a bad thing that happened.
She knows she’s been naughty, so telling her off is pointless. By separating her from the event and by making it in the past “That was… …that happened”, it de-focusses the telling off and allows her to see that I’m not exploding at her or shouting (or worse), but that I want to have an adult conversation about the event.
This then allows her to come out of her protective cocoon (eyes down, being silent and hugging herself) and we can talk about it.
I should also point out that this technique works with all ages and can be a great way of breaking through teenage moods and tantrums.
As a follow up to the last post, I was asked an interesting and related question: “Why does Olivia always ask you to be the monster”.
I know why, so I thought I’d share it.
Don’t forget (or should that be: Remember) that children can choose to represent their fears and worries in lots of different ways. It might be the “bad guy” or a teddy, or an imaginary friend or even a real friend with fictitious behaviour (ever had your kid make up tales about how so-and-so did this or that?).
What games do your children like to play with you and is there a role they like you to play more often? Leave a comment and let us know.
One of my daughter’s favourite games is to play “monsters” where she and I will hide from the monsters.
What is so special about this game?
Well nothing I suppose, in so far as every game a child plays is “special”, but I have chosen to talk about this game as I decided to try and influence the game at the weekend.
Childrens’ emotions are expressed in other ways
Children can’t express the emotions they feel as well as adults (and that’s not to say that adults are particularly good at it either) and they don’t have the life experiences and knowledge of how to deal with them that age brings.
How they learn to deal with these emotions is through playing with them.
By building scenarios and fantasy play, they can experiment and learn about the emotion and how they can deal with it.
In order to play with an emotion, they have to find a way to externalise the emotion so that they can then interract and experiment with it.
In this example, my daughter is experimenting with fear and she has externalised it into an object or objects called monsters
As you can see, she is experimenting with an approach of running away and hiding from the monsters (things that scare her), and I am attempting to introduce into the play a different strategy for dealing with the scary monsters:
…Being just as scary and dangerous as the monsters
Boys and Girls
Of course boys tend to deal with monsters in a more physical and confrontational way than girls, so while I am trying to encourage a more physical and aggressive way of dealing with things that scare my daughter, parents of boys may want to think about ways of introducing more caring or thoughtful approaches to dealing with monsters. That’s not to say that I shan’t be playing sneaky ways of getting the monsters with Olivia too…
…Maybe we’ll surprise them and cover them in goo! Or make them look silly…
…Or maybe we’ll team up and I’ll chase them while she lays a trap that will capture them so that she can then take them to (a fantasy) school and teach them how to be nice… (notice how that then allows the play to move on in to another area altogether – which I shall talk about another time)
Do share any ideas you have for dealing with monsters or if you notice the themes in your kids’ play and how you could introduce new ways of interacting with the emotions attached to them.
Follow up question
I was asked a question about monsters and why I’m always chosen to be the monster. Checkout my answer here
I’m a big fan of taking what people say and do literally. I believe what we’re thinking and feeling inside finds its way out through any and everything we do.
As far as children are concerned this goes really quite a long way and there’s loads I could talk about on this front, but what I wanted to focus on specifically this time is a picture Olivia drew for me at the weekend of her and me.
As you can see, the clear themes of control and separation/connection in the picture mirror what’s happening in her life very closely.
Should I or can I do anything about it? Olivia doesn’t think so, but that’s not to say that I can play empowerment and connection games with her to at least try…
Understanding why children play games and what each game means to each child was a real turning point for me in how I engage in my daughter’s play. Today’s video is about one game in particular: hide and seek and how the deeper meaning of the game allows her to deal with the real life situation that she doesn’t live full time with me and how I can use that understanding to make sure she knows and understands just how important her visits are and help her deal with the feelings she has about it.
Oh, and please forgive the beard. I was experimenting (again) with facial hair, but I’ve decided that it really isn’t me and it will be coming off asap.
Painting with my daughter gave me a great example of how, as a parent, my best intentions are not always what she needs.
In this case it was the idea that I had that she might like to paint a house on a blank piece of paper. I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t try and influence or force her to draw any particular kind of house, instead I would let her draw whatever kind of house she liked. Maybe it’d be a rabbit’s house or her granny’s house or maybe something completely different.
What actually happened was quite a surprise and a fantastic learning opportunity for me.
Of course you could argue that “a house” is perhaps a too open question for a child… Maybe asking what Mr Rabbit’s house looks like would have been better (it isn’t – I’ve tried it). Looking at the reams of drawings and paper that are nothing but different coloured swirls where she’s just gone round and round and round where I’ve not had a hand in helping her direct her imagination, I can’t help but compare them to how much more enjoyment she gets and the (relatively) well shaped art work that she and I have done together where I’ve helped her with an outline of what to do (I’ll add a photo of my favourite piece soon).
It seems that while I might like to think that by keeping out and letting her explore the world in her own way would be good, it actually turns out that a bit of gentle guidance is essential. No wonder our kids (nearly) always turn out like their parents…