Father and Son playing together with big pillow.


Build children’s confidence and security by allowing them the more powerful role in play.

To your child, Playlistening will look and feel like play of the most wonderful kind! It begins anytime you take the less powerful role in play – this is the true essence of Playlistening. Your child’s laughter is a reliable guide that you are getting it right. Notice what makes her laugh, and do it again! (But don’t tickle!).

The sense of being safely in charge will boost your child’s confidence. Laughter is also a remarkable healer and connector – melting away lighter, embarrassments and timidities.

Limit setting can also be done playfully to great effect.  The feelings which drive a child’s off-track behaviour will often release through laughter and with the connection that Playlistening brings.  Afterwards child will often be able to be more reasonable and co-operative without adults having to lecture, instruct or punish.

Mum and boy in a vigorous snuggle

Roughhousing – Photo Courtesy of Hand in Hand Parenting

Let the child lead

  • Children communicate important things when they are allowed to set the agenda, make the rules, and choose the type of play.
  • They are in charge: this builds the safety that allows them to heal. This is because it is different from how they got hurt: when they got hurt, they were not in charge.
  • Don’t make suggestions, teach, instruct. There are many other times when you can, and must do this. Playlistening is not one of them.
  • It’s OK not to know why child chooses kinds of play or laughs about certain things – you can trust that it is important to them in some way.

Take a less powerful role, and let them win (even if they are cheating!)

  • Let the child make the rules, and win the game.  It may help if you act bemused or befuddled about how they are managing to win, or act like you are unaware that they have “rigged the game”, or take the position of the “sore looser” – but with no sense of correcting or blaming your child.  You are the hapless victim!
  • Helps the child feel in charge.
  • A break from being the little-est, the least knowledgeable, the youngest.
  • Reassures them that we are really prepared to step out of the “big person” role and listen to them.

Notice and promote laughter

  • Laughter is a natural tension release, eases fears, and quickly connects us with each other.

Don’t overwhelm or overpower (laughter vs screeching)

  • Match your energy to your child. Give them just enough to be interesting, but not too much that it becomes overwhelming. If they stop laughing, or start to scream or screech, it is a sign that they are not feeling safe. Back off.

Warm, active, enthusiastic, willing

  • Children really want us with them, thrive on our attention, and feel reassured by our interest.

Don’t tickle.

  • The laughter that happens when we tickle is not healing laughter.
  • When we tickle, the children are not in charge.
  • There are 1000 other ways to promote laughter.

What games to do you play that help your children laugh, and build connection between you?  Have you had success with setting limits playfully?   Do you have questions?  We would love to hear from you – please leave a comment below.

Stories of using Playlistening

Playing Away Separation Anxiety

Want to know about the other HandinHand Listening Tools?

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©2014-2023 by Madeleine Winter. 
The featured image above is “Here I am!“.
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