The Incredible Years puts play at the foundation of their parenting pyramid.I know, I know. You already play with your kid, right? That’s what I thought too, and then I started being mindful of HOW I was playing with mine. I quickly realized that I was the one leading the play, I was always within arm’s reach of my phone, and I was playing just long enough to get my kids occupied so I could sneak away to load the dishwasher or get started on dinner. I wondered why my kids were still so desperate for my attention (positive or negative) when I was spending so much time with them.
The Incredible Years program recommends playing with your kids for just 10-15 minutes every day. If the kids are in school and both parents are working outside of the home, there really isn’t much more time available after homework, dinner, bath and bed-time routines are done. If you have more time to spare, your kids will love it. If not, don’t sweat it – a dedicated 10-15 minutes (per kid, if possible), is all you need to make a difference.
Here are a few tips to make your play time most effective:
- Put down your phone, turn the TV off and give your child 100% of your attention.
- Let them lead the play, even if it makes no sense or goes against what you think they should do. They might want to start colouring before they’ve finished a puzzle – that’s okay! Just do whatever they want to do during your play-time.
- Don’t play a competitive game, especially with a younger child. It’s better to play with unstructured toys such as dolls, trucks or blocks.
There were three sessions dedicated to play. (THREE! That’s SIX HOURS of class time!) The most important thing I learned during this section of the program was the concept of descriptive commenting. This is talking like a sportscaster while you’re playing. It might sound like, "You're colouring the car red" or "You're putting the doll in her bed." Sounds crazy, but I always asked questions ("What colour is the car?" or "Where is the doll going?") when playing with the kids because I thought that was what I was supposed to do and that I was “teaching them” but apparently, when you ask too many questions, they feel like they're performing rather than playing and it takes all the fun out of it for them. Once I stopped asking and started describing, my kids were way more engaged. Believe it or not, just making these changes and being mindful in how and when I played with my kids, made a huge difference in their behaviour.Try taking these steps with your kids this week and let me know how it goes in the comments below. Just remember to have fun and let them lead the way! This will build their self-confidence and they will absolutely love this dedicated time with you. Now, if you’ll please excuse me, it’s time to be a Brachiosaurus mommy searching for yummy trees with her babies!