Drop and Dramatize: Increasing Cooperation through Connection

Getting down on my child’s level is hard to do.  I mean, really, to get on the floor I have to stop what I’m doing, thinking, planning, turn off the phone, turn off my whole adult mindset.  I might even still be in my work clothes, which I can’t ...really ....move ...in.   And my back might be hurting, or my knees sore.  But... that said, WHEN I make the effort and get down on my child’s level, I notice that life afterwards happens with a little more ease.  Requests and expectations are met with surprising willingness.  Moods are lighter.  My child and I have a shared experience - a connection - and that makes life just more fun!

Every time I recommend Stanley Greenspan’s (http://www.stanleygreenspan.com/) floortime approach to parents - I always acknowledge the difficulties of putting this into practice.  But parents often respond by saying that when they’re less verbal, less cerebral, and actually spend some silly time with their kids, that routines and transitions are much easier. 

Seriously, taking time out for a little “finger puppet” show with the vegetables you’re about to cook with makes for some great laughs and more connected and cooperative kids.

I’ve been struggling with a very active and obstinate toddler lately.  But last night his art project became a self-transporting-mind-altering-dramatic-enhancing-state-changer.  The tops of the egg carton (thoroughly decorated with fluff, straws and eyeballs) became buttons that could transport you into other worlds.  Each time you pressed a button, you changed.  Dragons one minute.  Ghosts the next.  Then zombies, frogs, monsters, insert <category I’ve never heard of>, etc.  This became a hilarious, energetic, drama.  And my baby was so receptive to later transitions that everyone felt a little better.

I guess it’s about quality time in day-to-day life.  Even if it is only 5, 10 or 20 minutes long - it is just a great check in (also a great check in with the rambunctious toddler within all of us).  Floortime is very much like a dance.  Let your partner take the lead and follow the steps.  And just watch those mirror neurons fire away.  When you follow your child’s lead, you join in your child’s emotional flow, creativity, skill development, sensory input.  This can be an exciting exploration of your child’s ideas.  

Floortime is awesome.  And our Early Childhood Matters parenting workshops, Play-and-Learn Groups and classes just for Dads around San Francisco (Carmel Blue, Recess Urban Recreation, Kaiser Permanente, Pacific Primary School, to name a few) really emphasize this.  So drop and dramatize with your child.  Get down.  Get physical.  Get play.  

-Justin Walsh