Following Example #1
Clean Up & Playtime
When a child resists cleaning...
My previous 2 posts shared some thoughts on how important playtime is. I hope those posts reduced some of the normal parental anxiety that surfaces from feeling pressure to make kids clean. There's no need for harsh discipline or even seemingly harmless behavioral manipulation to control how much your child cleans up.
With the importance of playtime in mind, now consider the various Present Parenting mindsets that can aid you in nurturing your child’s brain throughout the ongoing challenge of teaching cleanliness.
The pages in this post give practical examples of what you might THINK, DO, and SAY depending on the mindset you feel your child needs in a given incident.
Remember that the attachment mindset encourages caregivers to defuse a child’s natural (and totally normal!) self-defensive brain circuits by accepting the child’s vulnerability and keeping the burden of responsibility on their own shoulders. The following mindset, which also intentionally preserves a child from full accountability, emphasizes the caregiver’s role as a mindful leader once the child shows trust and is paying attention to environmental learning cues.
The accountability mindset begins to shift some responsibility to your child and is useful when they are starting to understand and appreciate the logic behind natural consequences--like having a clean playing space for the next day’s adventures. And if your child is truly open to this mindset, it’s a great way to begin developing simple habits that just might be ready to become long-term connections. But don’t expect the accountability mindset to work consistently until your child’s prefrontal cortex is more online to help provide a deeper personal behavioral commitment.
Since clean-up time can feel very overwhelming for a child (compared to playtime), cherish the prime opportunity it provides to prove your parental mindfulness over and over again. You can do it!!
And if you can endure ~7-9 childhood years without turning to unnatural bribes or punishments, you’ll find you can then have logical conversations about setting aside time to keep things tidy without nearly the self-defensive responses of the primitive years.
Is your child getting in a 40-hour week?
“Play is the work of childhood,” said child development genius #jeanpiaget
“Play is the work of the child,” said Maria #montessori
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning,” said #fredrogers
Considering these expert opinions and the fact that our modern world functions because adults are expected to dedicate a minimum of 40 hours each week to work, shouldn't we place high value on a full work-week of play for our children?
Now my goal in this post is not to declare a certain number of hours as the "right” amount of playtime. Circumstances are different in every household and 40 hours is a symbolic number that emphasizes the value we tend to place on adult work.
My goal is to ease your mind if your child is fighting to play longer.
My goal is to encourage you to stop punishing your child if they crave a new project and then resist cleaning up the remnants.
My goal is to help you appreciate the drive children build up in their brains as they jump from activity to activity without worrying about what the house looks like afterwards.
Developmentally, it's totally normal--and even critical to future brain balance--for Attachment Stage (~ages 0-3) and Following Stage (~ages 1-8) kids to spend hours and hours absorbing the world around and using it to process imaginative ideas without caring much at all about long-term consequences for their actions quite yet.
The desire to play A LOT is not a sign that your child will become a delinquent adult. Rather, it’s a sign of persistence, creativity, and initiative. So children don’t need timeouts or loss of privileges or dirty looks or snide remarks for making a mess when they play...even if they don’t want to clean it up. They just need adults who lead in setting wise limits that still favor playtime or who lend a helping hand without holding grudges or who conduct creative clean-up games with no strings attached.
Stop and think about how much you value playtime. Can your child tell that you value playtime as an incredibly important part of their weekly work routine? What are you doing to send that message?
Playtime in today's world
It’s so tempting to worry that children won’t be successful unless we make them work hard. Perhaps that’s why schoolwork, chores, and talent development get sooooo much emphasis in our society.
But have you ever stopped your adult work long enough to watch a child play? Talk about hard work! I’ve tried to keep up and I have a hard time lasting more than 15 minutes. 🥴 Children can play for hours if we let them. It’s amazing. It’s extraordinary. And it works their brains like crazy.
I think what I love the most about playtime is that kids get to choose for themselves which direction to take their bodies. Indeed the consistent initiative, enduring determination, imaginative problem solving, and moral resolve that playtime provides is prefrontal cortex development at its finest. While children still need mindful adults setting limits that ensure their health and safety, children don't need their desire for constant play squashed by adult expectations.
Here's a thought that may help you find a better balance:
Many disciplinary battles happen because parents feel an urge to limit children from playing in order to make sure they get enough "successful" work done. Ironically, commanding children to work tends to use only their animalistic brain in order to survive complying.
So perhaps successful work should be re-defined as that which uses pretty much the WHOLE brain. And in children, that's playtime.
How would the modern parent/child relationship thrive if a parent's hope was to carefully and mindfully limit academic and household rigor to adequately preserve their child's free-thinking playtime?
As a child feels their parent standing up for whole-brain development, doesn't that increase relationship trust? And can't a parent feel full confidence that a child who develops their entire brain will--in due time--naturally and wisely prioritize an adult work-life balance necessary for success?
Yes, preserving playtime is a win-win at our house.
In conclusion, as the world starts to get busy again and revamp what a typical day and week looks like, be aware of your priorities. Is playtime one of them?