Thanks to Code Name: Mama I'm reading Playful Parenting by Lawrence J Cohen. It is the golden book I should have read long ago (and I don't say that very often about parenting books)!
I have always believed that play is like a child's job, and felt it was very important for Everett to spend most of his time playing with as few limits as possible. I also knew that play is a way to connect with each other and a way that a child explores reality. However, I've never really questioned why to all of this. And I've never thought of play as an acceptable way to handle anger or outbursts. This is especially key to what I have learned and immediately put into practice.
From what I understand after some of my reading, play allows the child to process their emotions- work them out, so to speak. That could mean that Everett reenacts a traumatic experience using his stuffed animals, or that i start tossing him around and teasing him when he throws a punch out of anger.
Honestly, I've become stuck in the muck of adult perspectives. I readily assume that he needs to learn how to process his anger in a serious manner that allows him to acknowledge it and express it, then find a healthy way to resolve it. For example, talking about how he feels, stomping it out or yelling and then breathing to calm down and talk (some more) about what he can do to resolve it, if necessary. That's a lot of talk for a 3 year old, isn't it? Perhaps that's why it doesn't work too often.
Reading what Cohen says about how children use play to understand reality, I realize that play is the perfect way for Everett to do all that I want for his emotional health- acknowledging, expressing, resolving. Not to mention, that when he starts swinging and I can turn it into a game, he learns how to blow off anger when it's not really appropriate (like when he doesn't get to open the door by himself before we get to it).
On a side note, I quickly turned a potential problem into a game when leaving the park yesterday. As Everett continued to lag behind despite my nagging I changed my perspective. How can I turn this into a game? I said to Everett, "pretend you're the daddy and I'm the little girl and you have to get me to the car to leave. What do you do?" We quickly picked up our roles and he pretended to drag me to the car talking about how we can live at the park even if I want to. We got to the car with no problems. Furthermore, I think Everett enjoyed trying on this role with me and I learned a lot about him through our dialogue.
I can't wait to keep reading through the book. I hear that there is a chapter on roughhousing that will be especially applicable to my rowdy guy!
You can join the Code Name: Mama virtual book club's reading of Playful Parenting, too. It's not too late to check out the book, then hop in on the blog posted summaries and discussions!