Playful Parenting, Simplicity Parenting or Full-tilt Ferber?

By Brian Leaf



One day last winter, my family went out to the Lone Wolf café in Amherst, Massachusetts for breakfast. Noah, age six, loves the waffles, and I love the Lox ‘n Latkes Benedict. After breakfast we were to drive to the Amherst Indoor Farmer’s Market to shop and meet some friends. We finished breakfast, walked to the car, and got in, but Benji would not sit in his car seat. Benji is two.


To drive like this, with Benji not strapped in, is, of course, illegal and unsafe. So Gwen and I couldn’t give in on this one. We had to get him buckled in.


I have just read nineteen parenting books; surely I’ve got something up my sleeve.



I try Playful Parenting. “Benji, if you don’t sit in that seat, well, I’m going to sing Yankee Doodle until you do.”





I try Simplicity Parenting. I relax my body and sit in my seat. What’s the rush? We’re headed to the Amherst Indoor Farmer’s Market, for Pete’s sake. The kale can wait another ten minutes.




Benji does not budge.


OK. I try Attachment Parenting. His wants are his needs. Maybe he doesn’t feel like being strapped in because his body needs to move, to get out some pent-up energy. Heck, I’d resist if you tried to strap me to a chair. Or maybe he needs to be held in loving embrace. I scoop him up, eat him up, nuzzle him close, and he and I walk a few blocks while Gwen drives along side. Plus, I figure if we switch things up, surely he’ll move on.


Nope, he does not. I try to put him in his seat. He’s not buying it. Stiff as a board and now crying.


Just as I think we’re going to have to go full-tilt Ferber on him, I think to attune. To really pay attention. I look at Benji. He’s lost in a tantrum. He’s stuck. I don’t know why, and I don’t think he does either. I ask myself, “What could help Benji relax? What will interest him and fish him out of this mire?”


Answer: He’s social. He likes to interact and play with friends. Maybe thinking about that can shift the energy for him.


I ask him, “Benji what’s the name of your friend coming over later.” He looks at me. The first eye contact since the meltdown. His body relaxes. “Wavy,” he says.


My face lights up. “Oh, Wavey,” I say, as I buckle him into the car seat.


He’s happy as a clam.


Brian Leaf

About Brian Leaf


Brian Leaf is author of the yoga memoir, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. You can find him online at

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