Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Practice of Communicative Touch

Today I'm pleased to feature a Practices of Parenting guest post from my friend, Jessica Williams. Jessica is smart, creative, and sends me the most hilarious texts on almost a daily basis. She and I became instant friends when I moved to Kansas last summer. She has two adorable children, Neil and Nora, and is married to Ben. Jessica is an inspiration to me in many ways. I hope you enjoy her post!


The Practice of Communicative Touch

Most of the things I do as a parent are pretty normal, the kind of stuff everyone does: cooking, cuddling, reading, pretending, going on outings. I learned most of these practices by watching the women I liked and respected do them with their kids long before I had any kiddos, and so once I had my own doing them felt pretty easy.

My first kiddo was everything precious, sweet, and smart. He loved to play. He loved to listen to music. He loved to read and so the first year and a half of his life were easy breezy. However, two happened, as it inevitably does. I had not anticipated what in the world to do with a writhing ball of “NO NO NO” flailing around in a slippery tub come the end of bath time, or the complete meltdown in the middle of a store over not being allowed to have a dog toy (no kidding!).  

I hated to burden those around me with the yells of my child, and any form of discipline in public is incredibly taboo, but there had to be a better way than slinging my kiddo over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes and leaving. Doing this wouldn't teach my kiddo anything, and only left me feeling steamed.

I began to watch how other parents in the stores or playdates handled this type of thing. In public, all too often I would see one of two reactions—either just ignoring what the child was doing or a parent loosing their temper and adding to the embarrassing scene being played out. Neither of these options appealed to me. 

After a particularly trying day, where slightly insane laughter had replaced correction at the millionth “NO,” I reached over and tickled my kiddo. His face changed from defiantly scrunched up to wide-open surprise. I felt a little less like my brain was going to explode so I continued. After about 10 minutes of shrieking laughter, the world was a much brighter place, and to my surprise, my kiddo gave me the two-year-old version of an apology/explanation of his “No” outburst. I had found a way to get through and a way that little old ladies in public don't scowl about!

Now, whenever I am frustrated with my kiddos or they are struggling to hear my desire for what is right and good in their lives over the blur of No's in the day, I find it helpful to stop talking and start tickling! When my now-three-year-old is in the midst of a "No, mamma..." delay and oppose tactic (again) or I am carrying my ten-month-old away from the electrical outlet for the trillionth time, and their faces are crumpling and my head is aching, I can, and need to, remind myself of the joyous blessings that they are, and so I tickle them.

Hearing the delighted glee in their laughter as I leap to tickle tummies, toes, and oddly enough, on my kiddos cheeks does the trick faster and more wonderfully than anything else. It refreshes all of us, reconnects us, and makes it easier for them to receive my instruction and for me to appreciate my days with them.


Sarah Bessey said...

Love this! It reminds me of one of my favourite parenting books, "Playful Parenting" about play for connection (and even discipline). So fantastic. Thank you!

Amanda said...

I agree with about the power of touch! My oldest son is very loving and likes to snuggle and sit in my lap. Communicative touch has been easy with him. My second son is the opposite. He pretty much hates it and runs away from me. When he was a baby I wore him a lot, but when he became a toddler, I struggled with how to love him through touch. But I have found that he enjoys the tickling and wrestling, and for him, that is a way for my husband and I to connect with him.