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Parenting Games: 3 Ways to Build More Cooperation

Sometimes parenting just seems like a game…that you can never win.

The other team has more energy, more time, and more players. To help parents improve the odds, we’ve come up with some new “game plans" that might even the score. 

Follow the Leader is a parenting tool that can be used in two ways:

 As a game; and as a “redirection" tool. When using this tool as a game, parents can invite their children to play “follow the leader.“ This game is fun on family trips or vacations. Families with more than one child can have each child take turns leading the family hike or singing a song. The leader has the power to choose which forest path to take or which song to sing. Each child (and parent) gets the opportunity to be the leader, thereby encouraging equality and fairness. When used as a “redirection” tool controlling children can be direct their need to take charge of a particular task, such as getting the family together for dinner or organizing a wood gathering party for the campfire. This is a great game to replace power-struggling.

Freeze Play is a parenting tool variation of the old stand-by: Time-Out

Time-out is usually conducted by isolating or excluding a child from the rest of the family or classroom. In this traditional form children are sent to their room, a chair in the kitchen, outside the classroom door, or left facing a wall. Time-Out has a number of disadvantages, the primary one being that it involves the use of punishment that may seem harsh to some parents and children. Some children may become out-of-control or physically destructive when put in isolation or exclusion time-out. Fortunately, parents can use a different form of time-out, that behaviorists call “nonexclusionary time-out.“

Nonexclusionary time-out, like isolation and exclusionary time-out, eliminates reinforces (interaction with others). It accomplishes this by freezing the moment of interaction with the child for a very brief, but poignant amount of time. For example, if a child starts whining when told they must wait for dinner to eat, the parent can firmly but evenly, say, “freeze!” The parent then avoids eye contact (i.e., attention during the discipline) for a few seconds and the child is prohibited from communicating during this time. Afterwards the parent can nonchalantly carry on the task at hand or use Time-In or educational parenting tool. Be careful not to place too much emphasis on talking about the misbehavior afterwards as it might inadvertently reinforce the child to misbehave again for the attention it gains.

It might be necessary for the parent to tell the child what is going to happen during “freeze play" and the expectation that there will be no communication/eye contact during that time, so that the child knows why the parent is “acting this way.“ In addition, the old rule of thumb for time-out, one minute for every year of life, can be used in Freeze Play by substituting seconds for minutes (e.g., one frozen second for every year of life.) 

Huddling is a parenting tool shorten version of a family meeting without all the fuss or preparation time.

Huddling is a quick, informal, type of family meeting that any number of family members can have together and can occur at any time or place. Football players do this before every play to make sure the team knows what the plan is and to make clear everyone’s job. Family members can stop whatever they are doing to have a quick, little meeting about a specific problem or task. Parents can play the captain by telling the family to “huddle together.” Put arms around one another for support or just gather together in a circle, face in. Talk about the problem or task and assign jobs or ask for quick input. Decide on a plan of action and say “let’ go!“ Parents can use this tool at the zoo to decide what they are going to go see first, at the restaurant to decide what everyone wants to eat, and at home to decide what toys need to be gathered up before going to the park. While these “game plans” don’t guarantee a winning season, they can coach parents on new ways to improve their performance and their satisfaction in parenting.

OK, let’s play!


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You can get more quick tips to change your family dynamics and have the family you dreamed about by contacting Ron now! Click here for more information.

Pajama Games: Getting Children to Bed

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

They know every excuse in the book: I need a drink of water. I forgot to
give you a hug goodnight. I heard a noise outside my window. Bedtime can be
a nightly power struggle for parents when children do not want to go to bed
resulting in no winners. Here are some ways parents and children have both won the pajama game:

* Provide a “bedtime friend.” Michael refused to sleep unless his mother lay down next to him every night. At first, this was a comforting experience for both parent and child. But, over time, it took Michael longer and longer to go to sleep and he would cry whenever his mother tried to get up to go to bed herself. His mother quickly recognized that Michael needed a
transitional object or “bedtime friend” that would substitute the feelings of comfort that she provided him and would allow him to go to sleep alone.

Together they went and bought a stuffed animal that Michael found warm and
comforting. His mother talked with him before the trip about finding a “bedtime fiend” and what its purpose would be. After the purchase, she spoke to the stuffed animal, in front of Michael, and told it that it had “a very important job” to help Michael go to sleep. This employed Michael’s young
imagination and helped to transfer the comforting qualities of his mother to
the animal. Of course the transition from parent to transitional object was
not an easy one and Michael resisted the change at first. But with a lot of
patience and perseverance, Michael was able to sleep on his own, with his
new “bedtime friend.”

* Celebrate a good nights sleep. Even the most difficult sleeper has an occasional good nights sleep. Perhaps it was only due to exhaustion that a child didn’t get back up with a bedtime excuse. Celebrate it anyway! In the morning prepare the child’s favorite meal. Sing, dance, or do whatever it takes to give the child positive attention to the basic fact of having a no-excuse, sleep-filled night. Too many parents do their “song and dance routines” at night after the excuses have been given, reinforcing the very problem parents want to stop. During these stress times, ignore the irritating please for water or the annoying claims of nighttime terrors. Instead, redirect the child back to bed with a minimum amount of words or actions. This will rechannel the power struggle and increase the percentage
for successful bedtime routines.

* Discourage scary stories or television show. Sarah complained of monsters
under the bed, ghosts in the closet, and killers outside her window. Nothing
her parents did got rid of their daughter’s fears. Finally they found the root of the problem: Sarah had been watching scary movie at a friends house on a recent sleep over and had been exchanging scary stories with friends at school. Her parents talked to the other parents and convinced Sarah to stop the tales of terror. Within a week she was going to bed without any problems.

* Make a bedtime routine. Being a single mother and working a full time job
forced Eleanor to use a babysitter for her son Ben in the evenings. Ben had
developed a custom of waiting up for his mother and spends some “time together” before going to bed. Eleanor knew he should be going to bed earlier but felt guilty about leaving Ben with someone else and not being with him more. Once, on a very quilt-filled night, after yelling at him
before school, she brought home ice cream for them to share together. After that, Ben expected a treat every night. In addition, his late night routine got later and later. It stopped being simply about waiting for mom to not wanting to go to bed at all. The final straw was when Ben’s teacher called
and informed Eleanor that Ben was falling in sleep in class. She resolved to change the nighttime routine.

She arranged to have more time in the mornings before he had to go to school
to spend together. She enlisted the support of the babysitter to put him in his room and turn off the lights even if he didn’t go to sleep. He was to go through the motions of bedtime regardless. When she came home there were no treats and their interaction was simple and quick: a kiss, a hug, and a tuck into bed with the lights quickly out. It took some doing but Eleanor was able to get Ben to settle into a bedtime routine.

* Share the workload. Getting Tasha to bed was work! Her mother did everything she could think of to get Tasha to stay in bed but after a long day her mother just didn’t have the patience of the energy for a big fight. And Tasha knew all the right buttons to push on mom to make her mad and
manipulate her into giving her what she wanted (even after being told no).
Finally, Tasha’s mother recruited the father to back her up or take over when the mother felt like she was weakening. The parents agreed to a plan of action prior to the bedtime battle and they consistently enforced it, winning the war. Tasha would try and divide and conquer but the greater
numbers and the parental teamwork held firm and Tasha finally stayed in bed.

Getting children to go and stay in bed is no easy task. Parents face he limitless excuses and untiring energy of children who know how to maneuver around their parents with amazing ease. In order for both parties to win the pajama game, parents must use some special bedtime tactics to even the odds. But none of these things will prevail if parents are not consistent and provide positive attention to good nighttime behavior. How parents cope with the bedtime disruptions is as important (maybe more) that what they do to get their children to bed.

How do you become a better parent? Play more with your children. Learn more parenting tools for by taking our 10 Day Challenge.

How can I raise a gracious loser?

While it’s perfectly natural for your child to be disappointed when she loses something she’s worked hard for, like the championship soccer game, it is important for her to learn to accept loss without feelings of bitterness or low self-esteem. A child who doesn’t learn to lose graciously has a hard time making friends and is often frustrated by failures. Here are some ways to encourage a sourpuss to sweeten up.

  • Play on your child’s sense of empathy. At this age, she’s starting to develop the ability to put herself in another person’s place. She can now begin to understand that getting angry when she doesn’t win hurts the feelings of the people she’s playing with. Ask her to think about how it would feel if someone got angry at her when she did something she was proud of. Tell her that it’s okay to be sad about losing, but she should try not to hurt others because of it.
  • Play cooperative games. Noncompetitive games eliminate winning and losing altogether and help your child learn what it’s like to play on a team. Try hitting a balloon back and forth, or play a game of Chinese checkers in which the idea is to get your marbles on her side and hers on your side at roughly the same time. As children get older, they will have to start playing with teammates to accomplish a common goal, and cooperative games give them a great foundation for this.
  • Emphasize effort, skill, and fun. It’s trite but true: “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” Your job is to get your child to take this adage to heart. After she plays a game with a friend, ask, “Did you have a good time?” instead of “Who won?” Offer praise for anything done well, no matter how small it may seem. The more you can get your child thinking about developing the skills needed to be a good player — regardless of the outcome — the less important winning becomes.
  • Teach your child how to win and lose well. Show her what it means to be a good winner and a good loser. Tell her that good winners don’t brag about victories or make fun of another player’s skills. And help her become a good loser by giving her opportunities to lose as she plays against you. It seems harsh, but she’ll never learn the skill if she doesn’t practice it. Most important, don’t let her see you being a poor sport. Take your losses well, and always congratulate the winner.

If your child regularly “loses it” when she loses, you might need to take a break from game playing altogether. Turn the focus to other areas of her life that she can feel good about. And teach her that mistakes are okay by not reacting harshly when she makes one. For example, instead of getting angry about a bad grade in school, talk about what she can do to do better. In time, you should see some improvement.

Share your parent tools on how to raise a gracious loser at

10 Tools for Positive Attachment | Psychology Today

It’s never too late to have a close relationship with someone you love. If you had a connection before, you can have it again. If you need a model for building a good relationship, consider what the word “attachment” spells out:

A: Attachment is about creating a bond with those you love. It requires that you accept life’s imperfections and get okay with things being “good enough.” When you have a good attachment with the ones you love almost any obstacle can be overcome.

T: Touch is a very important part of being attached. If you’re not getting enough, talk with your mate about it. Physical connection is a necessary part of creating a healthy attachment. If you don’t want or need to be touched, that’s okay, but if your partner isn’t on the same page, it will chip away at your foundation.

T: Thoughtfulness means that, even in times of strife, you somehow always manage to consider your partner first. You need to want your partner to be happy, and thinking about him or her should make you happy.

A: Affirming verbally how you feel is very important for many people. To never hear “I love you” from your mate can leave you feeling as though you are not truly wanted. Many men and women need to hear they are valued. This is a case where actions do not speak louder than words.

C: Connecting with your partner by looking into his or her eyes, holding hands, and just saying “thank you for being in my life” or holding each other tightly for several minutes are both powerful tools. Give them a shot.

H: Hoping for a better tomorrow is critical for relationships that are in healing mode. If you both honestly commit to working on your relationship together, you will have the best chance of getting through a rough patch.

M: Memories of happier times will help you find the strength you need to get things back on track if you have lost your feelings of attachment. Knowing that you were once in love can give you the motivation you need to find it again.

E: Emotional availability and support are the cornerstones of a loving intimate relationship. Your partner needs to know that you’re going to be there for him or her.

N: Needing another person is not a sign of weakness. Yes, people can be too needy, and insecure behavior can make it difficult for a couple to bond appropriately. But everyone needs to feel valued and that his or her feelings won’t be dismissed.

T: Trusting that you are loved is essential. If you have any doubts, it’s best to sit down and talk about them. Communicating, verbally and nonverbally, is the best tool for creating what you want.

After a little time, what you may find is that your partner isn’t perfect and neither are you. Of course, that means that your relationship isn’t perfect either. It is, however, good enough.

Ron Huxley’s Additions: As a family therapist, parenting educator and parents, I welcome any movements toward building strong families. It is what the Parenting Toolbox web site has always been about. These 10 tools give some great advice on how to establish the building blocks of relationships. It is actually based on some serious science but that isn’t important here. Practice these parenting tools today.