Parenting is hard but with the COVID-19 crisis, it just got even harder. No kidding. Your chaotic world of balancing kids, life, home, and work has been turned upside down.
Raising kids was already challenging. More often than not, they didn’t listen. They didn’t cooperate. They pushed back.
Now cooped up 24/7, these power struggles have escalated and are like an exhausting competition stuck in overtime. You can’t leave your house. You can’t organize playdates. Your family is going stir crazy and emotions are running high.
Yes, parenting is hard and kinda sucks right now. But there is a way to make parenting easier–and more fun for the entire family.
When parenting is hard… make it a game
Rather than nagging, yelling, and getting into annoying power struggles, be playful and create games to deal with everyday challenges. Be like Mary Poppins, who was a pro at transforming unpleasant tasks into fun activities.
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and–SNAP!–the job’s a game!”
Wait, I know, being playful is the last thing you want to do when you’re about to yell at the top of your lungs, “LISTEN TO ME AND JUST DO IT!” But yelling isn’t productive. And it doesn’t make anyone feel good.
Remember the last time your living room was a mess?
Toys, books, games, and leftover dishes scattered everywhere. It probably looked like a tornado had hit! Your kids refused to help and only wanted to watch TV. Did you scream until you were blue in the face? “Clean up this room!” How many times must you nag and yell until they cooperate?
While it seems contradictory, you can actually make cleaning up fun.
One parent engaged her children with an impromptu game. She pushed away her frustrations, ignored their complaints, and enthusiastically said, “I’m going to call out ten random tasks for each of us. As soon as you’ve finished one task, come back quickly and I’ll give you another. When we’ve each done ten, we’ll watch the TV show. Ready, go!”
The results? Excited kids who raced around picking up items. A room quickly made spotless. A family spending quality time together and connecting through teamwork. And it only took five minutes!
How to make parenting a game
1. Take a deep breath
First, you need to regain control of the situation and calm yourself down. Breathe in slowly, expanding your stomach. Hold for a few seconds and exhale slowly. By breathing deeply, you’re pushing more air through your body, which soothes your nerves and eases your tension.
2. Then take another deep breath
Go ahead and take another calming breath since kids can be exasperating. You probably need it! These additional few seconds will also break the power struggle momentum between you and your kids.
3. Adopt a “can do!” spirit
Now flip your imaginary switch and adopt a positive attitude. This “can do!” spirit will ignite your creativity and set a playful mood.
4. Determine your goal
Don’t let the tension, tears, or tantrums distract you. What should your kids do? Clean up their mess? Help make dinner? Or maybe you want them to stop procrastinating and finally get ready for bed. In order to make a task playful, you need to determine your goal.
5. Creatively problem solve
How can you make this fun? Kids love to play, so you want to entice them through playfulness. Here’s a trick: choose an activity your children love. If they like singing, sing their favorite song or create your own silly song. If they like to dance, incorporate movement into the task.
Example: How to clean up a room playfully
Next time your kids refuse to clean up a messy room, try these playful clean-up ideas. Or use them to spark your own playfulness. You’ll want to choose what works best based on your children’s ages and preferences.
Playful parenting not only stops the power struggles, but it also empowers your children by teaching them skills and showing how to make mundane tasks fun.
- Race against music. “Go, team, go! Can you pick up everything before this song ends?” If your room is a disaster, no problem, use 2–3 songs.
- Play a guessing game. “How many minutes do you think it will take to clean this room?” With school-age kids, you can use this opportunity to incorporate math. “If you guess 9 minutes, how long will it take if three of us help?”
- Roll dice. Roll dice to determine how many items everyone picks up at one time. “Ooh, Jackson rolled a six! Put away six things and then Sophia gets a turn to roll the dice.”
- Sing silly songs. Sing like an opera singer with exaggerated arm movements, “Whaaaaaaaat should weeeeeeeeeeeeee piiiiiiiiiiick uuuuuuuuuuup?” Or make up your own verse to a popular song, like the “Farmer in the Dell.” “Let’s clean up this room, let’s clean up this room. First pick up all the toys, while we clean this room.”
- March, hop, dance, and move. Encourage your kids to move playfully. Not only is this fun, but it’s also a wonderful way to get rid of excess energy. “Dance like a ballerina and scoop up the books.” “Now wiggle while you put the books on the shelf.” You can also let your children choose the movement and follow each other.
- Pretend to be a superhero or character. Let your children become their favorite superheroes or characters. “How would Superman pick up the clothes?” “Now bounce like Tigger while you gather the books.”
When you use playful ways to stop struggling with your kids, you make parenting easier–and more fun for everyone. And during this coronavirus pandemic, more playfulness is certainly welcomed.
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Karen Thurm Safran is the author of the entertaining, easy to read book, Parenting — Let’s Make a Game of It (available on Amazon). Written for busy parents, learn how to playfully stop struggling with toddlers and school-age kids. For more info, visit www.ParentingLetsMakeAGameOfIt.com.