The Power of Sillyness
I know there are a bazillion blogs out there about how to parent your kids. Parenting is changing in our society from an authoritarian based parenting style to an attachment or more democratic style of parenting. And we are all trying to figure out what that looks like and everyone has opinions. It's an emotionally charged issue and being a parent right now means a lot of pressure and expectations. But that is a blog post for another day.
After over 20 years of working with kids in various roles, I have gathered some of my own opinions. Today I want put in my plug for that gem of life: silliness.
I use silliness in my interaction with kids often, and find it has a big effect in changing and shaping dynamics of the moment and the relationship overall. So here's what I have found:
If there is conflict between you and your partner and you aren't feeling particularly close, what happens when you ask the person to do something for you? "Honey, will you do the dishes?" You will not likely hear, "Sure babe, I'm happy to help," at least without a bit of sarcastic tone (an adult form of protest).
It's the same with kids. In our society parenting is a harder job than it used to be and there is little support for parents. Usually, both parents work, are stressed, sleep deprived, often in a hurry, etc., etc. This leaves everyone in the family sometimes feeling a bit short tempered. So when you ask someone to do something, they might not want to do it without a bit of protest. In kids this looks like not responding, saying no, taking their time, doing something else, a tantrum, etc., etc.
Again, there is plenty of advice out there on how to handle these situations such as rewards, punishments, offering choices, talking to them about it, etc., etc.
There is one tool in the box that I think is often over looked: silliness. It can be hard to conjure when you are not in good spirits, but oh the wonders it can do for both of you.
Play is extremely connecting for humans in general, not just kids, but especially kids. It is their language - it's how they figure out the world and their place in it. When you play with kids you are speaking their language and saying that you want to connect. A bit of silliness is play and humor combined - both of which help us get through life easier.
Here's the breakdown of how I sometimes make silliness in the midst of stress happen:
Drop what I'm doing. It might feel like I am in a hurry and don't have even an extra minute! But those 2 minutes of play can save 20 minutes of moaning, groaning, foot stomping, and all around bad moods.
Take a deep breath. This is a reset button for our bodies.
This one is optional. Verbalize that I am feeling frustrated and need to change the tone, or "radio station," or mood. Saying this models for kids healthy expression of emotion and helps them label emotions with words. "Oh - that's the word for when your face is all twisted up like that!" Or sometimes the surprise of just being silly in the middle of things is the perfect reset button and will make a kid forget their protests.
Do something silly! See below.
Sometimes it may take a while for kids to get in the groove if this isn't something they are used to in the midst of tension. It may also help a hyped up kid focus if the silliness involves being creative, using imagination, or problem solving.
Being silly doesn't mean stop upholding expectations, being firm with limits, or letting kids have their sad or angry feelings. It's just a great tool for building connection and warmth when things feel grouchy. We all have those times.
All of this is something you might already be doing. If so, you might add some of these gizmos to your tool box. If not, these may get you started.
Come up with characters with a silly voice and use them over and over. Throw in a brand new one sometimes. Have the child invent a character. Use the character to help movitvate whatever it is that needs to happen i.e. the butler appears and asks everyone to help set the table.
Threaten to do a silly dance if ________ isn't picked up in 30 seconds.
Have a race to see how many __________ each child can pick up in 30 seconds and count it down.
Pretend there is an amimal in the house. Ask what it is doing now. Pretend you hear it talking. Maybe it is telling the kids what needs to happen.
Pretend the food that needs to be eaten is talking.
Sing a silly song together.
Get your willies out with an all over body shake.
Take deep breaths and make animal noises on the exhale.
Comment about something that isn't there, like the big rhino running along side the car.
Have everyone act like a fish out of water by jumping up and wriggling your body before you land.
Have a funny face making contest (and let them win).
Put on a funny hat and act as if it isn't there, or ham it up!
Have fun and enjoy yourselves being silly! It's pretty contagious and addicting. I hope you get some soon.