Playing for Power

Playing Tag

“In play, the ordinary rules of reality are suspended, and that is what gives it such power. A little boy can imagine himself a superhero; a young girl can wrestle her father and pin his shoulders down. Children playing school get to hand out the assignments and the grades and the punishments. The playing field is leveled, or even tipped a bit in favor of the child, to make up for the frustrations of being smaller and weaker and less competent than the bigger folks.”
-Dr. Lawrence Cohen, Playful Parenting

Some of my children’s favorite games seem specifically designed to give them power. In Baby Bear, they always get away with sneaking out of the cave when they’re supposed to be hibernating. In Stop! Go!, they control my every movement. In You Can’t Get It, they always manage to “steal” a toy from me (while I stand there taunting that they’ll never ever get it away) and to run away and hide it where I’ll never find it.

I love that we can play out the impulse to be in control so they can break rules, be the boss, and take things away in a safe, silly scenario rather than through misbehavior.

Playing Tag photo courtesy of Bruce McKay

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