An interesting, thought-provoking book about taking a more light-hearted approach to parenting. Although I found it useful, I have trouble actually putting it into practice.
Title: Playful Parenting
Author: Lawrence J. Cohen
Publication Year: 2001
Amazon Product Page (Affiliate Link)
Review: I alternate between thinking this is a very important book and not particularly useful. What I love about this book is that it has a focus which is completely different from any other parenting book I’ve read. The main idea is that you should be goofy and playful with your kids in nearly every situation. The author, a play therapist, uses lots of helpful examples to describe how he uses a playful attitude to break through walls that his clients and other children put up so that he can foster a deeper connection. He encourages techniques such as roughhousing, fantasy play, reversing roles, acting bumbling and incompetent, and playing Barbies as ways to get children to open up and let out their bad feelings.
I can see how having a positive, silly attitude would be helpful in lots of situations instead of immediately getting mad when kids misbehave and I’ve tried to incorporate this aspect to some extent into my parenting. However, I’ve had mixed success. There are lots of times I’ve found when my kids’ anger and/or bad attitudes are not really going to be cured by making them laugh temporarily. For example, if kids are fighting over a toy, he recommends grabbing the toy and running away laughing to get the kids to chase you. I think in the ideal world this would be so much fun that the kids would forget about the toy. I can say that this technique worked as advertised in a certain sense when I tried it. I had my kids laughing for a couple minutes as they chased me around the kitchen. However, I really had to cook dinner and when I stopped playing, the meltdowns were even bigger. Now not only were they crying because they each still wanted the toy, but they were also crying because they didn’t want me to stop playing. This was not the outcome I was hoping for.
I can see how this playful attitude might work better for dealing with only one child, but when there is more than one child, especially siblings, I find his techniques difficult to implement. However, despite my lack of real progress at being a “playful parent,” I did enjoy this book and I think I’ll hang onto it for a while. Maybe it will be more useful to me down the road. For the moment, I’m just trying to remember to be more light-hearted with my children and open to fun. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that laughter is important, whether or not it solves problems. (Personal Rating: 8/10)
Parenting Book Reviews
General Parenting Books
Best Books for Kids
maryanne @ mama smiles
I suspect that this works better with some children than others. I do use humor a lot with my two older kids – maybe this will work better as your kids grow older? I do see how it would be especially valuable with only children, and I am a big fan of making parenting joyful and playful.
That’s what I’m hoping…that as my kids get older a more playful approach to parenting will help our relationship to be closer and more open. I didn’t have as much success as I would have liked with my 1, 3, and 5 year olds, but I could see it working better with slightly older kids.
Lisa Lewis, MD
I enjoyed this book, definitely the parenting tips have to be at the appropriate time and in context. I agree with you, the take home point and gentle reminder that play facilitates connection to a parent is important. I do think the techniques described worked better with my older children. Don’t laugh – I highlighted and wrote things down. It might have been nice to have a concise list in the book. Well…. I made my own. (This is coming from a person who, when tired, needs a creative push!) I especially like the concept he writes about letting the child lead the play. Many activities are directed by parents and teachers. It’s nice for children to make their own rules and navigate the play with parents.
You definitely won’t find any judgment from me…I’ve been known to type out and laminate a summary of my notes from time to time! It’s great to know that you find this book useful with older kids. It definitely feels like a book that has a lot of wisdom in it. I’ll have to make sure to read it again in a year or two. Also, I completely agree about the importance of child-led play. Kids seems so much more invested in any activity when they are the ones in control.