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Help! I'm surrounded by screaming plants

Why kids speak in the "language of play", and how you can learn to be speak their language...even if you are not feeling playful.

I recently read about new research that shows that plants "scream" when they are injured or dehydrated.

The researchers found that plants make high frequency sounds when they are distressed. In fact, they can predict how badly off the plant is based only on the sounds.

The sounds are too high for humans to hear, but small animals like mice and moths can hear it.

Reading about this made me feel even worse for our house plants. I struggle to take good care of them, and I now imagine our house is filled with the unheard screams of plants. I can just imagine how differently small animals like mice would experience our house. Pretty horrible to think about...

It also reminded me about an article I read a couple of years ago, about a shop that had a problem with teenagers hanging out outside their door. So they installed a speaker system playing an irritating, high frequency sound that only young people could hear, driving them away.

The fact is that, just like mice or moths, our kids also experience the world very differently from us.

They also have very different priorities and agendas from us.

One of the most important priorities for young kids is the need to play.

When I interviewed Julie King (author of the two best-selling books How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen and How To Talk When Kids Won't Listen) for our book How To Get Kids To Listen, she explained this as kids having their own language - the language of play.

Kids love to play. That’s sort of their language, right? That’s what they want to do and that’s how they learn.

If you have a child who’s engaged in some activity and you need them to stop, and to do what you need them to do, you have to understand that they don’t have a lot of motivation and they don’t yet have a lot of inner control ... If we can get them focused on another activity that to them feels like play, then we don’t develop that resistance where they start to dysregulate and cry and scream and say, “No, and you can’t make me!” We’re trying to avoid that altogether.

Julie King

In the interview, Julie shared an easy technique to be playful even when you feel you aren’t “the playful type”. I have started to use this technique frequently, and it almost always works to get my kids attention and help them cooperate with me, without me having to yell or nag.

Julie also talked about the most helpful thing to do when your child is heading towards a tantrum, why reassurance, logic, and explanation won’t help prevent a tantrum, and what to do instead.

What I really appreciated is that Julie also shared how to manage your own negative emotions when your children start behaving badly, so you don't end up saying things that you'll regret once you calm down.