Who doesn’t experience moments and times of anxiety and frustration? Children are no different. Laurence Cohen, Ph.D, author of Playful Parenting and The Opposite of Worry refers to these feelings of distress as a “knot of tension” linked to some particular emotionally charged experience like separation, sibling rivalry, transitions, meals, bedtime, rules, demands … you can add your own.
When children are reacting to their own knot of tension, parents tend to experience an emotional reaction too. Dr. Cohen says, in fact, it usually takes at least two people to “pull on the knot”. The child’s knot tightens when we yell, punish, label, threaten and rely on negative and punitive means to solve the problem.
Dr. Cohen encourages us to loosen this knot of tension through laughter, surprising and unexpected responses, increased closeness, playfulness, empathy, allowing a child to release feelings, and reconnection.
A mom told me recently of a moment one morning when she found herself at an impasse with her young daughter. They were definitely both pulling the knot tight and something had to give. This mom realized that they were stuck, decided to try a different tactic – an unexpected, playful one, and rephrased her comment to her child to be – ” What I should have said ….” and then continued on with a funny and surprising remark – and ta dah – they both laughed, the knot was gone, and all was good on both sides.
It’s not always easy to be able to try humor and playfulness to make our points but it seems like it’s sure worth a try.
“Now go pick up your socks from the floor but try not to tickle them when you do!”.