Playing Our Way From Rage to Giggles
Do you ever play with the angry beast inside you? I’m trying to teach my kids to do just that.
I live with three three-year-olds (and their older brother). If you have spent much time around three-year-olds, then you know this is an age of emotional intensity. These children understand the world well enough to think that they understand it completely, and they can do enough for themselves that they often want to do everything for themselves. Unless things are going badly, in which case they are bundles of massive emotion without any capacity to reason themselves out of a situation. And, by this age, they are self-aware enough to experience extreme frustration when their wish to control the world conflicts with the nature of reality, parental instructions, or a sibling’s wishes. The result: frustration, often arising in a flash.
One of my kids reacts to frustration by lashing out: he throws things, stamps his feet, screeches, etc. I understand the way he feels, but I need to help him do something else with his energy.
One of the most effective tools I have is a Pushing game. I kneel in front of him and bring my hands up in front of me, palms out, like the beginning of Pat-a-Cake and ask him to push my hands.
- If he doesn’t want to push me or pushes lightly, I urge him to push me over. And, I let him. Even when he pushes me with the full force of his anger, I can control my fall to protect my body. But, and this is important, I let him think he is pushing me over. I then get up and see if he does it again. He is usually giggling after one push-Mummy-over moment, but sometimes it takes two or three.
- If he pushes me hard from the starting position, we push each other’s hands as long as it feels right and then I ask him to grab my hands and we pull away from each other. And then, we play with pushing and pulling as long as it is fun.
Sometimes, one or more of the other kids wants to join the game, and I work on finding a way to make it happen. Since the end of the game is often a pile of giggling children on Mummy, more really is merrier as long as we can get there safely.
The game is the beginning of an InterPlay form: Hand-to-Hand Contact. They don’t know that. They think it’s just a silly game they play with Mummy. I think it’s a life skill: using play to turn the anger and frustration into giggles. It’s a physical form of the aphorism, “Sometimes, you just have to laugh about it.”