Connection, loving limits and laughter play with our children

I often say to parents, and have written elsewhere here on my website, that whenever we are in a challenging situation with our child, we have three choices: Pure connection; connection plus loving limits, or connection plus laughter play.  I find it really helpful to have this tattooed on my brain for remembering in those sticky moments with my own children!

What I love about this map is that the three choices often become a dance – connection becomes laughter play, which becomes loving limits, and so on.

Here is an example.  When Sunny was about three-and-a-half, had developed a control pattern of picking his nose and holding it out to me and saying "bogie present" and repeating it more and more urgently until I came and took it from him!

(This topic is not for the faint of heart!  Nose picking is often a control pattern yet I had never heard of this precise control pattern before!  It helps me remember how specific control patterns usually are – which is often a way to help us see them clearly – because of their rigid preciseness!  They are also usually distinguished by the urgency of the asking for them!)

For a long time I was going with it, taking the bogie with humour, and viewing it as a way he was making connection. Then, one night, I could see that he was very agitated, and he was doing this picking and asking me to take it over and over, a lot.  I read these as signs that he had pent-up feelings to express, and that the nose-picking and bogie-offering was the entry point he was offering for the release of those feelings.  

So, I took him into the bedroom (we have a queen and a single bed put together) and started to play with him.  From there, we moved between laughter games (him chasing me with his bogie and me saying, "no, don't put that bogie on me" in a mock-scared voice), where he would laugh a lot.  Then we shifted to me setting loving limits (“you really want me to take it, and I'm not going to now”), where he would cry lots of tears, and then to holding (when he would try to kick me I would hold his feet, saying lovingly, "I won't let you hit me,") and he would move into raging, and then it would shift back into laughter play again, with lots of laughing, me avoiding the bogies – you get the picture!

We moved through all of these several times (laughter play, loving limits, holding, and back to laughter play again.  All the time there was plenty of connection between us). This went on for 45 minutes or more, and then there came a sense of completion.  We cuddled up together on the bed, spent some time looking into each other's eyes, and he fell asleep.  

Since then, he has rarely picked his nose and rarely offered me a 'bogie present', and for some time after was more contented and cuddly with both Lana and I.  The occasional time he did make the offer, I remarked on the delicious strawberry/bluberry/chocolate taste, and he would laugh.  It hasn’t happened for a long time now.  

However, different control patterns have come along, for the connection/laughter play/loving limits mantra to be applied!  

Edited 2010