Excerpt from Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Playful Parenting

A Bold New Way to Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Children's Confidence

by Lawrence J. Cohen

Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen X
Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2001, 307 pages
    May 2002, 320 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Play is the essence of life.
Think about the loving gaze of an infant, the no-holds-barred embrace of a toddler, the intimacy of a shared bedtime story, or a silent hand-in-hand walk. These moments of heartfelt connection with our children are part of the great payoff for the hard work of parenting. Yet this connection all too often eludes us. We find ourselves locked in battle instead of joined in partnership. We all know the rest: the inconsolable baby, the toddler in the throes of a tantrum, the third-grader in a huff over bedtimes, the twelve-year-old sulking in her room.

Children’s natural exuberance and exploration often gives way to what I call “fighting and biting.” Or they hide themselves behind a Gameboy or a locked door. Meanwhile, our profound feeling of parental love is replaced by resentment and aggravation, even rage. We nag or punish, or we say, “Fine, stay in your room.” We yell when we reach the end of our rope, or just out of habit. All because we feel helpless, rejected, and cut off. We want to reconnect, as much as our children do, but we don’t know how. We still love them, but we barely remember those melting eye gazes of babyhood. If we do remember, it is a bittersweet memory, as if that closeness were lost forever.

Play--together with what I call Playful Parenting--can be the long-sought bridge back to that deep emotional bond between parent and child. Play, with all its exuberance and delighted togetherness, can ease the stress of parenting. Playful Parenting is a way to enter a child’s world, on the child’s terms, in order to foster closeness, confidence, and connection. When all is well in their world, play is an expansive vista where children are joyful, engaged, cooperative, and creative. Play is also the way that children make the world their own, exploring, making sense of all their new experiences, and recovering from life’s upsets. But play is not always easy for adults, because we have forgotten so much. Indeed, children and adults often seem to reside in radically different worlds, even within the same household. We find each other’s favorite activities boring or strange: How can she spend all afternoon dressing up Barbies? How can they sit around all evening just talking?

Parenting and playfulness can seem like contradictions, but sometimes we just need a little push to find one another and have fun together. I was at an outdoor concert, dancing off on the side with my nine-year-old daughter, when a mother and son came over to the dance area. She started dancing a little, but he just stood with his arms folded, a little too shy to dance now that he was there. He was about six or seven. His mother said, starting to get angry, “You dragged me up here, and now you’re not going to dance?” He folded his arms tighter and literally dug his heels in. I thought, We can all see where this is going. I said, “Oh no, he’s doing a new dance,” and I folded my arms just like his and gave him a big smile. He smiled back and moved his hands to a different position, which I copied. His mom caught on right away and started copying him, too. We all laughed. He started moving his shoulders up and down to the music, and his mother said, “You’re dancing!” Then he started to dance, and he had a great time. We all did (including my daughter, who waited patiently while I did “the Playful Parenting thing,” and then wanted my complete attention again). A little playfulness turned the tide.

This small episode demonstrates that Playful Parenting can happen anywhere and anytime, not just during designated playtimes. Playful Parenting begins with play, but it includes much more--from comforting a crying baby to hanging out at the mall; from waging pillow fights to taking the training wheels off the bicycle; from negotiating rules to dealing with the emotional fallout of a playground injury; from getting ready for school to listening to a child’s fears and dreams before bed. Sadly, these simple interactions can seem out of reach sometimes, or full of complications and hard feelings.

Excerpted from Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. Copyright 2001 by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Speak No Evil
    Speak No Evil
    by Uzodinma Iweala
    Young Nigerian American writer Uzodinma Iweala is fast becoming known as a powerful chronicler of ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter
    by Ali Smith
    "God was dead; to begin with." This first sentence of Winter perfectly sets up the dreamy journey ...
  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

  • Book Jacket: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Anatomy of a Miracle
    by Jonathan Miles

    A stunning novel that offers an exploration of faith, science and the meaning of life.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One N U G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.