Playing with your child isn't a luxury—it's a necessity.

Children thrive on that juicy energy.

In fact, the human race is still here because children are genetically programmed to demand our attention, so their emotional as well as physical needs get met. If they don't get positive attention, they'll find ways to get negative attention.

If you think your child gets plenty of attention and she's still acting out, consider that maybe what she needs is a different kind of attention—help with her emotions. Children often end up stuffing lots of tears and fears. Keeping all that down makes them difficult, demanding, even explosive. They need to cry, but they can't quite get there, so they get angry instead.


The best way to dissolve that chip on their shoulder? Get them laughing.

Kids who are being difficult always get easier when they have regular opportunities to laugh with us.

That's because laughter transforms the body chemistry, reducing those neuro-chemicals associated with anxiety. The way I see it, laughter empties the whole top layer of tears and fears in the emotional backpack.

Laughter also floods the body with hormones like Oxycontin, which promote connection and well-being—so when you laugh with your child, you're bonding with each other. And when kids feel closer to us, they cooperate more.

I know, it's hard to find time to play when you're just trying to get your child through the evening schedule of dinner, bath and bedtime routine. But you don't need a lot of extra time to make the evening playful. Just find ways to connect warmly and be silly as you go through the routine.

Does that sound like too much work? Consider that...

Play strengthens your relationship with your child and helps him WANT to cooperate with you, which makes the whole evening go more smoothly.

Feeling safely connected makes it easier for your child to let you go when he's finally sent off to dreamland (which to us is sweet liberation, but to kids feels like being sent alone to Siberia.)

A stronger bond gives you more influence with your child on an ongoing basis, so things will be a lot smoother when she's 14.

More connection puts the joy back into parenting.

Daily life with children can feel like a thankless, endless, grind. But when you create more sweetness with your child, suddenly it becomes the most rewarding, meaningful thing you could be doing.

This is your official reminder that your inbox will never be empty, but your children will grow up. Sooner than you think, you will be the last person they'll want to spend time with. I know, it seems a long way off. But if you have an 8 year old, you only have 3650 evenings left together—and that assumes you'll spend every evening together between now and the time your child turns 18, which is unlikely. What's much more likely is that by the time your child is 14, you'll rank pretty low on her priority list.

So if your child is still young enough to want your time in the evening, why not give it to him or her in a whole-hearted way?

Why not turn off the computer and your phone while you're with your child? Why not leave the clothes unfolded? (Kids can wear them wrinkled right out of the laundry basket, right?) Why not chase them around the house with a diaper on your head, and roar at them like a tiger? Why not have an extra long story hour tonight?

I guarantee you'll see the benefits in the form of more closeness and cooperation tomorrow.

This article was orginally published on Aha! Parenting.

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