Stanley Greenspan, MD, a child psychiatrist who has written many books and who has an interest in parent/child relationships, developed a fascinating program that he calls “Floor Time.” The essence of this exercise is to improve the relationship between parent and child by having “sessions” in which the parent follows the child’s lead and joins him in child-led activities–it does not matter what the child is doing, as long as the child initiates the move. This could be anything from playing a board game to taking a walk in the backyard.

Years ago when I worked with a psychologist to help my daughter with certain behaviors, I was taught the method of Floor Time and was amazed at how well it worked. At the time, my daughter was quite young. I was instructed on how to follow her lead and what amazed me was how quickly our relationship improved.

This past holiday weekend, I used a version of Floor Time to connect with Mackenzie, who is now 21. We spent a few days together at our little lake house in Canada. I was determined not to pester her about her grooming, her habits that often irritate me, her impulsive bedtime behaviors, her poor eating habits, etc. I had decided that we were going to relax together and have fun. Period. I knew that in a matter of days, we’d be back in the school routine with all the stress that goes with that.

It worked. Mackenzie’s whole demeanor changed. She was calmer, happier and her mood was great. It made me think just how much MY reactions to her make matters worse.

With school starting, how can YOU back off and enjoy your children more? I know that now is not the easiest time to even consider this, but perhaps if you begin to monitor yourself- watch yourself as you interact with your kids- maybe you’ll come up with some new strategies so that your time with your children becomes more positive. And even more fun.