I confess. I’ve been totally selfish for the past two years. I’ve been contriving ways to get my kids to do what I want, and they totally work. Usually without screams, usually with whole hearted willingness.
I play with them.
Oh, Micah, you’re a dump truck today? That’s perfect because I’m a front end loader who needs a dump truck to take this stack of papers to the recycling bin.
Kids, it’s a good thing you’re racing cars because these hot wheels all over the floor need to have a pit stop in the toy box.
It’s bath time! Let’s all be the cutest dolphins you’ve ever seen!
Where are my tiny puppies ready to snuggle up nice and cozy for bedtime?
Kids need to play. It’s in their wiring to learn how the world works by playing it. If I can get into their imaginations, I can play real world things with them, teaching them about responsibility, accountability, boundaries, and serving others. They can learn about obedience and authority, and it doesn’t have to be through trouble. Micah and I went through a phase of playing kindness with his trucks. Some trucks are just so ugly to others, and they have to learn how to be kind. Right now we play boundaries and accountability with a race car who never wants to stop at red lights. Sometimes this race car pays tickets in tacos. Sometimes he gets his license taken away.
Our good friend James and his mom Jen play emergency. Since he loves firemen and fire trucks, there are constant emergencies to get dressed and into the car to get to the rescue.
It’s really all about the vocabulary and embracing creative imaginary play. The possibilities of accomplishing everyday necessities without drama and trouble are endless.
Of course, this doesn’t take away the very real need for true discipline. We still have time outs and fits and clashes and battles for control. But with creative play, we eliminate a lot of scenes that can arise if I simply insist on my way. It’s not tricking them, either. When I call down the hall for a sweeper truck or a cleaning elephant, my kids know exactly what I’m asking for. But since it doesn’t interrupt their play, they are usually more than willing to humor me.
Plus, how often do you have the opportunity to crawl around like a bear or race around dangerous turns as a steam engine when you’re an adult? It’s a seriously good stress reliever.