The Play Ethic

by Scott Noelle

According to the work ethic of our culture, happiness comes from hard work and toil. “No pain, no gain.”

This contradicts the play ethic of nature: maximizing pleasure while avoiding pain. Nature always follows the path of least resistance.

Children naturally express the play ethic, and a lot of parent-child conflict reflects the clash between the two value systems.

Joyful parenting begins the moment you abandon the work ethic and start taking play seriously. That doesn’t mean never working; play is anything done in joy — including “work”!

So if parenting feels like hard work to you, set your sights on a new career of full-time play. But don’t change your routine yet. Start with a change in attitude.

Focus on the pleasure potential in every moment and, gradually, a joyful new routine will evolve to match your intentions.

Originally published on 2006-06-21
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