Playlistening helps us relax about name calling!
author By Emilie Leeks,

Sometimes we get really stuck in a negative reaction to a particular behaviour our children bring to us. I'm so thankful to have discovered Playlistening which allows me to approach challenging behaviours in a playful, but very effective way! Here is an example of using it to work with my son when he was calling names.

My husband had just got back from being away in the US for a week. He goes away with work quite a bit, and the US is the most challenging for us because the time difference (we are in the UK) makes it difficult to connect - particularly for him with the kids. And the children really do miss him when he's away, and of course I have less time for them too because I have to do all the chores etc myself.

Our oldest child (7 years) was showing some big emotions (I think he was sensing the safety of his daddy being home, and was releasing some pent up feelings!), and was doing a lot of name calling (as well as very physical fighting!). When he's upset, he tends to call people 'stupid' or 'stupid idiot' which I must admit I find hard to hear. But this time I was in a good headspace and because I've been thinking a bit about this particular area, and have spoken about it in my Listening Partnerships, I was able to think more creatively and turn it on its head a bit and get some laughter going - when he called me stupid, I said things in a jokey way, like 'But just how stupid am I? I've been practising for years to be this stupid - could there be anyone stupider than me??!' and I pretended that I was really proud of being the stupidest, and pretended to be annoyed when he called anyone other than me stupid! It really took the edge off what was becoming a real sticking point for us as a family, as we would all start to get wound up by it. Things have been a lot more relaxed around the name calling since then, and although it's something we would like to see the back of completely if possible (!), I do feel like we've moved out of the stalemate we were in before and are able to tackle it much more creatively now.

I used to think that you have to come down hard on behaviours like name calling - because otherwise the child will just continue to do them, right? But I now realise that when a child is calling names (or indeed showing any kind of off-track behaviour!), they are signalling a need for connection, and for help with some big stuck feelings they have. Being playful increases your connection with one another, and the laughter which comes from the playfulness allows the child to release some of those tensions they are carrying, so they no longer need to show those challenging behaviours. Responding playfully has been a revelation, and has completely changed the dynamic in our house!

Our son spent a long time playing very happily and independently after this session, and was happy to engage on and off throughout the play - plus he was very cooperative and thoughtful when I asked him to play quietly because his little brother was ill and sleeping!

Other resources you may find useful:

  • Bad words from good kids is a great article with more ideas to help if you too are struggling with name calling-type behaviours in your home
  • To find out more about Playlistening, you can buy the Playlistening booklet here, or for more information about other elements of the Hand in Hand approach, I highly recommend getting the whole set of booklets which is great value (and includes the Playlistening booklet!)
  • This is a lovely short video on the science of play, with discussion about Playlistening

**If you would like to find out more about the tools I have learnt which have helped me so much in parenting from a more connected standpoint, visit my website, or the Hand in Hand Parenting website, or contact me to chat.**

A word or two about Journeys in Parenting; a responsive parenting community

Emilie is a Hand in Hand Parenting instructor, and was a paediatric speech and language therapist in her former life. She provides support and coaching for parents via the Journeys in Parenting community. Emilie lives in Berkshire in the UK with her husband and 3 children.

Journeys in Parenting is a community group for parents, carers and parents-to-be, who want to find out more about parenting in a responsive and peaceful way. The community offers information, advice and emotional support for this hard work we do as parents. The vision of the group is to be a safe space, where parents are supported in guiding their families in ways which: are respectful to children; meet the parents' needs; and lead to a more peaceful planet for all.

To work one-to-one with Emilie , request a free 15-minute trial call here or visit the website for more details

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