The Puppet Play Solution


This blog post was inspired by something Hand in Hand instructor Sophie Hunter shared with me when I was compiling Giggle Parenting Inspiration For A Back-Talking 11 Year Old.  She said that when she couldn’t ‘get through’ to her 12 year old daughter in the morning a toy tiger could do the job much better.

This started me thinking. If there’s anything we need our child to do, then asking and nagging isn’t the most effective way. When children are in non-co-operative, disconnected mode, that part of the brain that process language just isn’t functioning well.

Having a friendly puppet that does the asking can be much more effective. This kind of playful response goes straight to our child’s limbic brain, where those disconnected feelings are. As your child laughs and playfully responds, they increase their sense of connection with you. Then they begin to think more clearly and actually want to co-operate. As Patty Wipfler says, ‘connection breeds co-operation.’

So in my 15 Tips For Getting Out Of The House With Kids I suggested using a puppet for the getting ready tasks.

And you can use a puppet to help with absolutely anything you want your child to do. All those essential tasks, can be fun for you and your child. So Maybe the puppet helps your child clean their teeth at night or put their pyjamas on. Maybe the puppet brushes your child’s hair, or leads them out of the house, when you’ve run out of milk and they’re reluctant to go.

To add a giggle factor have the puppet do things wrong or get confused. Perhaps they put socks on your child’s hand, or brushes their knees instead of their hair. Puppets could also get shy, or run away from scary situations , building your child’s confidence that they can be the brave, confident one.

The possibilities are endless. So when you’re stuck with a non-cooperative child, and wondering how you’re going to get through the day, pick up a puppet, and see if they can do a better job!

If you try out this puppet play solution, feel free to leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your stories! 

For more tips on building your child’s confidence check out Hand in Hand parenting’s Confident Child Podcast Set 

For more playful parenting solutions check out Dr. Lawrence Cohen’s book’s Playful Parenting

Why You Should Let Your Children Be ‘Naughty’

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Did you know that letting your children be ‘naughty’ is one of the most effective parenting tools we have? It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. And no, I’m not talking about permissive parenting where you let your child run riot, hitting other children or destroying the house.

With Hand in Hand parenting we don’t use the term ‘naughty.’ We refer to off-track behaviour, which is how our children act when they feel disconnected, or when upset feelings are clouding their thinking. When children act off-track, the pre-frontal cortex; the part of their brain responsible for rational, reasonable behaviour can’t function well. Their behaviour is like a giant red flag they’re waving at us saying, ”help! I’m upset and I can’t think well. I need some connection!”

So how does letting them be naughty help in any way? Well, imagine your child has come home from pre-school and starts randomly pulling books of the bookshelf and scattering them across the floor. We may wonder what happened and if something upset them. We might ask them, ”What’s up? Did something happen?” and not get much of a response.

It’s not surprising that our 3 or 4 year old doesn’t always tell us what they’re feeling. When the emotional part of the brain – the limbic system – gets flooded with emotions, the pre frontal cortex, where language is housed can’t function well. They may not want to talk about it, and they may want to act out their emotions instead. (adults are often no different).

Perhaps your child felt disconnected at pre-school, because they’re still getting used to being separated from you. Perhaps another child took a toy from them and they felt powerless to stop them. They may not cry there and then, and instead save up those emotions for expressing at home where they feel most safe.

We can move in and set a limit, hold our child’s hand, look into their eyes and say, ”I’m sorry, I can’t let you throw the books.” Our child feels our presence and all of that upset, flows up to the surface, and they may start to cry. This is their natural healing process at work. When we listen without trying to fix or stop, we heal the hurt that caused their behaviour. As Dr. Deborah Macnamara says, ”’crying is not the hurt, but the process of being unhurt.” And when children feel better, they behave better. This is nature’s behaviour regulation at work.

So where does the ‘naughtiness’ come in? Well, sometimes your child may not be on the edge of tears. As you take their hand, and ask them not to throw the book they may wriggle your hand out of yours and giggle as they try to throw it again and again. Laughter is also part of nature’s behaviour regulation system.

In this example we don’t want our child throwing and wrecking our books. But we do want to follow where the giggles go, because doing so gives them the play and connection they need to help recover from what happened.

Perhaps if you have some baby cloth books, you could point them out and tell your child, in a playfully serious tones, ”these are my most precious important books, please don’t throw these ones.”

Your child will probably take it as an invitation to throw these books, and can have lots of fun and laughter as you playfully try to stop them. In my article here, What to do when your child just wants your attention I explain how this kind of play does encourage the behaviour in the moment, but in the long run, it improves co-operation because your child has got their feelings out of their system.

So you do want to let your children be playfully ‘naughty’ in the context of a game, that doesn’t involve hurting people or damaging objects.

For example, the other day, I was tidying up in the evening. I’d given my daughter lots of attention all day, so it seemed reasonable for me to spend a few minutes putting some washing away. She started complaining, and I sensed that she had upset feelings that were making her struggle to play independently.

So I set a limit. I got down on her level, and gently told her that I really needed to tidy up. I thought she might have been on the verge of tears, but she wasn’t. Instead she hid under the covers of her bed, and told me not to come near her.

At this point I was putting the clothes into one of the drawers. Everything was neatly folded, and I said, ”I hope nobody comes and messes up these drawers.” She immediately jumped up and started trying to pull the clothes out of the drawers, while I playfully tried to stop her. We played that for a few minutes, me trying to stuff the clothes back in the drawers and then her throwing them out. She laughed a lot and then happily went off to play a game by herself.

It wasn’t that hard to fold up the clothes and put them back, and I gained time because then she was happy to let me tidy.

This won’t encourage our child to come and pull clothes out of our drawers all the time. They needed attention, and we listened through laughter, so they’ve got that behaviour out of their system.

It takes a leap of faith to allow your child to be naughty. But try it. Try it with something that won’t push your buttons, and when you’ve got time to play. For example put some Duplo bricks in a box, and tell your child ”see my lovely bricks are all tidied away, I really hope nobody comes and messes them up.”

Or, take a pile of non-important papers, and put them on the kitchen table. Tell your child that these are your very important papers, and you don’t want anyone to mess them up.

Children  do know the difference between play ‘naughtiness’ and really ‘naughtiness,’ just like a puppy knows the difference between gently biting for fun, and really biting. When they are upset they may not always act according to their deep seated knowledge of what is ‘right,’ but when we play and connect with them it helps them return to ‘thinking mode,’ so their future behaviour will be much more on-track.

Have fun and laugh, and let your child lap up your attention. Then you may find that when you do want to get something done or need your child to co-operate they will do so because you’ve invested time in connecting.

This post explains more about why children misbehave, and what we can do, The Real Reason Our Children Misbehave

Looking for more playful ways to deal with behaviour challenges? Check out Playful Parenting by Dr. Lawrence Cohen

15 Tips For Getting Out Of The House With Kids


Thanks to Crappy Pictures for this image.

One of the biggest shocks to me as a parent was just how getting out of the house suddenly turned into mission impossible. Speaking to other parents I know I’m not alone in this!

Our children just aren’t born for our busy, modern society. They like to take their time, and get deeply involved in play. It must come as a complete shock to them when we start hurrying them out of the door, and lecturing them about being ‘on time.’

I’d love to live in a world where my daughter could take her time,  where I could just open the back door and she could run out and play with other children all day.

Unfortunately our world is not that simple. Most of us out of necessity have to, at least some of the time, get our children out of the house. And we a have a time limit.

Luckily Hand in Hand parenting has some amazing tools to help us complete this challenge. Follow these steps to get your children out of the house. There are lots of playful tips here so if you use them all you might be in for a very long getting ready process! Incorporate them here and there whenever it seems necessary to add fun and connection into your daily routine.

1. Don’t underestimate the scale of this challenge! – It seems like the simplest thing in the world. Putting on clothes and shoes, opening the door and leaving the house – before having children. Afterwards life will never be the same again. Be easy on yourself, and forgive yourself for the times you’ve snapped and lost your patience. Children’s brain’s aren’t really wired to be rushed about from place to place. But because of our lifestyle’s it’s often a necessity. So, if it gets hard, don’t think of it as some sort of ‘failing’ in you as a parent. Caring for children and their emotional lives is one of the most challenging jobs in the world.

2. Instead, seek support. Get some listening time. When we have a parenting difficulty that recurs day after day we’ll often find that as time goes on more and more feelings build up inside of us. The first step towards change is to have somewhere to take these feelings. Having another adult who can listen as we talk, moan and express how we feel means that these feelings will come up less and less in our life. So have a laugh and a cry about how hard it is to get out of the house. Then notice how your perspective shifts after being listened to. When we clear out our mind of upset we can think more clearly and can often come up with playful and creative ways to deal with the situation.

3. Have lots of connection the day before – Connection helps our children to co-operate with us. If your child feels disconnected you can bet they will tell you about it by refusing to put on clothes, clean teeth etc. Any time we connect with our children it is an investment of time that will make things go more smoothly the next day. Do some special time the day before, and plan for regular roughhousing before bed. Bedtime is the ideal time to add in extra giggles to not only make your child sleep easier, but also give children the connection they need to co-operate the next day.

4. Have a bed party – While your child is sleeping, arrange every single fluffy toy they own on their bed. As your child slowly wakes, make up a silly song like ‘welcome to the bed party,’ and have the toys throw and catch balloons. Do silly thing that make your child laugh.  Perhaps they start trying to lift your child’s pillow up instead of a balloon, or all the toys decide to leave the party by hiding under the pillow. This is the perfect alarm clock for our little ones. You can read more about this idea here.

5. Have a puppet or fluffy toy do the getting ready tasks – After hosting the bed party, have your child choose a toy to get them ready. Have the toy say silly things like, ”now I’m going to take you to the pee-pee otorium,” and ”welcome to the restaurant now I’m going to show you the breakfast choices.” Everything goes a little more smoothly when a friendly toy is the one doing the talking instead of a nagging parent!

6. Have a getting ready song. We like Hit The Road Jack By Ray Charles. If you want to add in some playfulness, you could try pretending the song is making you put on your coat and shoes, but have the song get it all wrong, for example by making you pile ten jumpers on top of you, or put on your child’s shoes.

7. Beat The Clock. Hand in Hand instructor Marilupe De La Calle says, ”We pretend that the clock is an actual person who’s trying to beat us. I say, playfully: “Oh, no! the clock is already eating his breakfast”… and my girls rush to the table. Then I keep going…”He’s putting his shoes on!! quick, put yours on!”…”Oh, he is already in his car!!!”..My girls love to “get him.” We win if we get to our destination on time.

8. Beat The Song From Marilupe De La Calle. Another trick we use is to play a song on the music player and we try to get ready (get dressed, hair done, shoes on) before it’s over. My girls get to choose the song, and this is especially funny when they pick a silly one, like a Christmas song in March.

9. The Confusion Game  Hand in Hand instructor Skye Munroe of Nurturing Connections says,  ”I like to pretend to be confused about the process – things like “ok ok I know we need to get somewhere right now , I just can’t remember what to do … Hmm ok maybe I have to open this big silver thing ( fridge) and it will be able to help me ?”
My gems will then be giggling and saying things like “no no we have to put our shoes and coats on and go out the door” and then I may open a cupboard door or similair – just goofing around so that the kids help ME ( us) get out.”

10. Squeeze in some special time. Even five minute can make a difference as this story from Hand in Hand instructor trainee Isabela Budusan shows. Starting the day with special time can be really effective. If you start the day with a bed party, you’ll already have started the day with a dose of connection, so you might want to move onto doing all the getting ready tasks, and then have special time right before leaving the house.

11. Music Montage from Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection. One of our favourite ways to get ready without struggles is to do a music montage (just like those fun scenes in movie). We choose one or two favourite songs to get shoes, coats, bags in order and dance and get ready at the same time. When the song is over we meet by the door.

12 The checking game From Ariadne Brill. Something we did when my boys were 2 and 4 years old was an airplane pilot check list. “One shoe on? Check! Another shoe on? Check! Coats? Check! A toy to bring along? Check! Everyone ready? check! Everyone buckled? Check! the children loved this game, especially if we built in silly moments like jump three times to get to the door? Check!!” feel free to edit as you need!

13. Lets leave the house – Put on a playfully serious voice and tell your child it’s time to leave the house. Take them by the hand, and lead them to the door the bathroom, and say, ”oh whoops! That’s not the way out of the house.” Repeat with other doors for different rooms, or wardrobe doors, cupboards etc.

14. Pack a silly bag – Pack a silly bag the night before full of random objects. Start talking about how you need to take this bag for you and how you need to check the objects. Pull out a swimming costume although you’re going to the park, a winter hat and gloves in summer, or some rocks from the garden. Act all surprised and confused as your child laughs and laughs.

15. Make Time For Big Feelings – If your child has a big meltdown at any time during this process it’s counter-productive to try and distract them or stop the tears. There’s a lot of articles out there about how to stop a tantrum, but this is why I recommend going with the flow and allowing feelings. Even if we do end up being late, our child will be in much better emotional shape to enjoy their day when they’ve release those feelings.

I hope these tips help the getting ready process become a joy for you and your children. If you try them out I’d love to hear about how you get on. You can let me know in the comments section below. And if you come up with any fun and playful games of your own I’d love to hear from you too!

A good morning starts with a good night’s sleep! If you need some help in this area check out my 5 Sleep Secrets For Peaceful Nights and Hand in Hand parenting’s online self study course Helping Young Children Sleep

Getting Dressed – Giggle Parenting Inspiration


With giggle parenting the jokes wear off. After a while they lose their giggle potential. And when difficult situations come up over and over again, we’re constantly being challenged to think of new and creative ways to get the laughter flowing.

A lot of this creativity happens in the moment, and the play we come up with there and then. Every child is different and you are the best expert on what makes your child laugh.

Still we all need some inspiration sometimes.

I’ve already covered getting dressed in this post, and this one. But I thought up this game the other day, and my daughter found it hilarious.

Having a cuddly toy to get your child dressed can be really helpful. Often when a child won’t co-operate when we ask them to do something they’ll be much more likely if it’s their favourite cuddly toy doing the persuasion.

To add laughter. Have the toy get out your child’s outfit. Then the toy tells your child that they need to get on their ‘getting dressed outfit.’ Then the toy puts on your child’s outfit.

We can act all surprised and confused saying to the toy, ‘your getting dressed outfit? what are you talking about? That’s not your outfit, that’s (insert child’s name)’s outfit! You are meant to get them dressed, not put on the clothes yourself.”

Adding giggles to the morning routine, is a wonderful way to deepen the connection with your child, and makes the rest of the day go much more smoothly.

Would you like a giggle parenting solution to your family challenge? Leave me a comment or send me a message

Giggle Parenting Inspiration: For Parents That Talk Too Much!


My daughter was playing with a piece of sellotape the other day. She was trying to stick it to my nose, and then my mouth. I was acting all playfully ‘frustrated,’ complaining in a light-hearted way that really got her giggling.

We were meant to be going to clean her teeth, but I decided to stay with the play when I realised that this ‘silly’ moment, actually had a lot of potential to help release feelings of powerlessness through laughter.

I kept playfully telling my daughter that I had important things to say, and taking the sellotape off, while she kept sticking the sellotape back on my mouth.

My previous posts about giggle parenting have focused on behaviour that we want to ‘fix’ in our child. But really it’s not the behaviour that is the problem. Our children’s off-track behaviour is really just a symptom of disconnection.When we connect with our children we can heal this disconnection. The behaviour gets ‘fixed’ as a side effect of this connection.

So this post comes from a different angle. A way in which we can ‘fix’ and change our own behaviour.

Ever since reading this inspiring post , How I learned to shut my mouth and why you should too from by Hand in Hand parenting instructor Julie Johnson I’ve been thinking about the importance of silence, and how we can deepen our connection with our child by giving them silence and space.

If you have a piece of sellotape to hand (that is slightly sticky rather than the kind that would be painful to take off your mouth!) then you could invite your child to play by saying in a light-hearted tone, ”I’ve got something very important to say, so I really hope you don’t use this sellotape to tape up my mouth.”

If you catch yourself nagging or talking too much and your child is rolling their eyes or sulking, you can play this. You can also invite your child to ‘zip’ up your mouth using their fingers. Then you can’t talk and just make lots of ”mmmm” sounds.

This is the perfect way to restore the power balance between you and your child!

Would you like a giggle parenting solution for your family challenge? Leave me a comment or send me a message

What To Do When One Child Takes A Toy Off Another


Imagine the scene. You’re at a playgroup and your child has grabbed a toy off another child. You ask them to give it back, and they run away across the room. You chase them and they’ve got the toy stuck tight in their fist.

You believe in peaceful parenting, and it doesn’t feel right to forcefully rip the toy out of your child’s hand, but the other parent is staring at you waiting for you to do something. What can you do?

When a child takes a toy from another, they are usually ‘off-track.’ They may not be able to verbally process our words when we tell them to give the toy back, because their limbic system is busy at work dealing with feelings, so the rational, reasoning part of the brain that processes language can’t work well.

The desperate need for a certain toy probably relates to deeper feelings than simply wanting to play with that toy. Perhaps your child recently had a new sibling, and is processing big emotions about the change, or they have just started daycare. Their behaviour could even relate to earlier hurts; for instance if their birth or start in life was particularly challenging, .

We do need to set the limit using physically connection, but not with physical force. We can move in close, make eye contact with our child, and put our hand on the toy and their hand. We can set the limit, and tell them in a gentle way, that they need to give the toy back.

What often happens is that your may child begin to cry. If we try to avoid their upset we may notice that their off-track behaviour keeps returning, perhaps for the rest of the playgroup! That’s a sign that the upset feelings are still there under the surface.

Instead of trying to distract with new toys or stop the crying, it can really help simply to listen. We can just be there and empathise without rushing around trying to fix things. This gives our child what they really need, connection with us and a chance to heal and overcome the challenges they have experienced.

After we have listened, they will most likely be able to understand our reasoning that the other child did have the toy first. And once that deeper upset is gone, they probably won’t be even that bothered about not having the toy. They’ll feel lighter and more joyful without those heavy feelings clouding their thinking. Sharing will come more easily to them.

Our children actually love to share and get on with each other. So listening can help them return to their natural, co-operative selves. This is what it means to parent peacefully, that we don’t need to use force or control. Listening and connection are all we need.

Need more help with sharing? Here’s some fun playlistening games to encourage sharing

Here’s Hand in Hand parenting’s free mini e-book which describes in detail how we can set limits and listen to feelings. 

And if sibling rivalry (or friend rivalry!) is a challenge in your house you might want to check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online self study course Taming Sibling Rivalry

When You Just Don’t Feel Like Playing – The Listening Cure


This post is all about listening time. If you’re new to the concept you might want to check out my introductory article here first. 

How do you feel when your children say, ”play with me!” Are you filled with excitement and joy, and rush over, saying, ”yes of course!” If this is the case every time, then you don’t need to read this post😉

For the rest of us, the words ”play with me!” can sometimes fill us with dread. It can be really hard to get down to our child’s level when we have chores to do, and adult things to take care of.

This post was inspired by an amazing Ted Talk I watched yesterday. You may have seen it already. It’s where TV producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, talks about how she decided to say yes when her children asked to play with her, every, single time. This video had me in tears. I so resonated with how she loved to work and write. I totally related to how hard she found it to play, and how she kept trying to come back to love, and simply being in the moment with her children.

I’m really glad I found Hand in Hand parenting, and the support they have given me to rediscover my natural inner joy to play, and have fun. But in a work-dominated to society it’s easy to lose touch with our ability to play.

Luckily there is a listening cure that we can use over and over again to recover our joy in playing.

So, when you’re doing listening time talk about how much you dislike playing. Have a vent and moan about how much you hate it. Say all those thoughts uncensored that you wish you didn’t have. Talk about how boring you find the play. Tell your listening partner how you feel when your child says, ”play with me!” Express it all.

Then go back to the past, ask yourself (or your listening partner can ask you?) What was it like when you were young? Who played with you? Did you ever have adult one-one attention? Who did you want to play with you more? – This is a really important step because our feelings about play don’t just relate to the present. They aren’t just about our busy lives. And they probably aren’t really to do with how ‘boring’ our child’s choice of play are.  Often that’s more to do with the fact that our own past hurts are being triggered – all the times we wished the adults around us could be more playful and full of joy.

You might laugh, you might cry. You might just talk and vent and moan. Just follow where you mind leads and you will shed those feelings of reluctance to play.

Try this for ten minutes and then go and find your child. How does it feel to play with them now after being able to express your feelings?

Repeat this every time the feelings start building up about disliking playing. When we can release all our feelings we will discover our true inner nature, and our natural love of playing.

Imagine how amazing it would be if we had enough time to get all those feelings out! Then we really could be that parent leaping for joy at the opportunity to play with our child.

Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes.

Need more help? Read 5 Tips For Having Fun Playing With Your Kids

Would you like to develop your listening skills and learn more about how listening time can be applied to all our family challenges. Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s self study course, Building A Listening Partnership

Would you like the Listening Cure for your family challenge? Leave me a comment or contact me here

The Power Of Saying Yes


This week I was wondering why my daughter and I were feeling disconnected from each other. We’d been busy, and so much of my time was spent figuring out how to get us out the door, how to use giggles to get her to co-operate etc.

Suddenly I was realising that I was focusing so much on what to do to ‘make’ my daughter laugh, that I was forgetting about the other Hand in Hand parenting tools!

After my daughter came back from her playgroup I decided that the rest of the day would be a ‘yes’ day – a simply and powerful concept I read about on the Abundant Mama’s blog.

I felt like I’d been in a battle all week to control screentime, so the first thing I decided to do was let my daughter watch the screen for as long as she wanted. I realised that I actually do want her to get to know the feeling of having ‘too much screen,’ so that instead of me telling her why it’s important to get off the screen she can actually feel the effects for herself, and judge for herself.

After two hours my daughter came to me and asked for special time. I decided we would do a longer hour special time. We played Lego and made pretend birthday parties for each other, by wrapping up her toys.

There was not a single power struggle, simply because I’d let go of my need to control, and in it’s place came connection. We simply enjoyed each other’s company.

I think there are important times when we should set limits, that Hand in Hand covers in their free setting limits e-book. But children need us to say yes a lot of the time. When we learn how to listen, our children can release the feelings that get in the way of their thinking. Then they can actually have good judgement. We can help build, happy, confident children when we trust their thinking, and respect their choices.

Yesterday was a ‘yes’ day, and I’m thinking how I can incorporate more and more ‘yes’s’ in our lives. It’s not always easy,  life puts many constraints on us, so that we are sometimes forced to say no. But living lives with more freedom, joy and ‘yes’s’ is my aim!

The tools from Hand in Hand parenting really do work, and often what’s happening when they aren’t working is that we’re neglecting one or more of the tools. So if you’re having a challenging day, or week, you can ask yourself, which tool aren’t I using? Which one would help now?

If you’re new to Hand in Hand, you can read all about the parenting tools here

Want to know more about how and when to say no to children? Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online self study course on setting limits

Giggle Parenting For Teeth Cleaning


With Giggle Parenting the jokes sometimes wear off and what had our child in fits of giggles a few weeks ago, won’t always be so funny. Coming up with new games isn’t always easy.

I love these three playful brushing teeth videos from Hand in Hand parenting instructor Kristen Volk. They’ve inspired me to keep trying new games and making teeth cleaning a fun and playful experience.

Today we had a flying toothbrush. I spoke in an ‘automated’ sounding voice to be the  toothbrush saying, ”We are coming into land. We need an open landing bay.” My daughter’s mouth was shut. So I said, ”oh no, the landing bay is shut! Lets try another landing bay.’ Then I’d try my mouth. And then say, ”oh no! That’s not right, that’s not the right mouth!”

Then I started saying ”we need some pearly white sparkling teeth to land on.” Then I’d realise my mistake and say, ”oh no! That’s not right! I mean we need some dirty teeth.” My daughter laughed and laughed. The teeth got cleaned easily.

If you’re in a rush to get out the door or get to bed and your child just isn’t co-operating with teeth cleaning (or anything else), it can be a struggle not to lose patience, put on a serious voice in an attempt to get them to hurry up. But try some giggle parenting, and you may find that the teeth get cleaned a lot quicker.

Would you like a Hand in Hand parenting solution for your family challenge? Leave me a comment, or use the contact form here

And if you’re looking to set limits, and get your child to co-operate then check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online self-study course, Setting Limits And Building Co-operation