“Playful engagement” is a concept central to the Texas Model and Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). It pivots on the fact that a child cannot be fearful or even angry while also being playful or being engaged in a playful way.
A playful attitude adopted by an adult can diffuse the tension during a difficult moment, disarm a child’s fear and keep a disagreement from escalating. It can open a conversation in which the child actually hears what the adult is saying, instead of becoming more distressed.
Playfulness builds connections in everyday situations too. You may remember childhood events when adults joined you in play or engaged you with gentle humor. A recent poignant, playful moment at a baseball outing reminded Youth Development Coach Pedro Lozano of Tamayo House about the importance of play and tapping into the child within us.
Child At Heart
By Pedro Lozano
“Whatever you do son, always be a child at heart.” This was something that my mother instilled in me early on and continuously repeated as I grew older. I recall, as a teenager, resting on the sofa with my brother only to be ambushed by our mother with an array of water gun shots. I remember hearing her faint laugh slowly crescendoing into a loud, playful laugh as she got closer and “attacked” us with squirts of water. “It’s on” was my immediate mentality as I ran for my water gun. We strategically met each other with innumerable amounts of water, all the while laughing hysterically through this wonderful moment. Once finished, the floors were wet, the sofas were drenched, the carpet was soaked, and the walls were completely saturated with water.
Next, was the cleanup before my father got home. Although a different setting, I relived this memorable, child-at-heart, experience yesterday as we coaches – LeeRoy Díaz and myself -- took a group of youth to a UTRGV baseball game. After the first foul ball, it was announced that there would be many more to come.
Then came the question from the youth: “If we get a ball, can we keep it or do we give it back?” “You can keep it,” we replied. The excitement and anticipation, then went up a few levels as the boys were eager to get a ball. Many foul balls followed, and then came the one that was meant for us. It flew high in the air destined to land in our immediate area.
“There it is guys, get ready for it!” I said enthusiastically. One of our youths instantly dropped and spilled his drink, climbed over the seats, and headed towards the plummeting baseball. The ball bounced off the cement, ricocheted off the announcer’s window, and landed in our boy’s hands. “Good catch sir,” called the announcer.
The outing could have honestly finished there, as the main focus was now the baseball. The youth was exhilarated and could not stop talking about the ball. We were excited for him as well and mentioned that he could have the ball signed by the players; that it would make a great memory. Our soon to be 19-year-old’s child-at-heart reaction was like watching and listening to a 9-year-old in a candy shop for the first time. He said, “I can’t believe that at my first baseball game ever I got a baseball, and I got it signed by all the players! That is so live! Thanks for bringing me!”
It is evident that we all have a past, that we all make mistakes, and by these flaws one is labeled; and because of this one creates a stone-cold, defensive demeanor to protect themselves from the unforgiving, judgmental world. But, if we add amusement, humor, love, and joy into the equation of life, I feel we can strip the layers of hardness and discover that under every person there is a child wanting to play. I believe that as we at Tamayo House constantly pour our hearts out into our boys ensuring that they triumph over any endeavor they seek, we will see moments and responses like these that hint at developing success within our youth.
Photos: Tamayo House group at the ballpark; youth getting his baseball signed by team members of the UTRGV baseball team.