Now more than ever, our kids need us to “fill them up.”

This “Fill Up” Game works miracles because it makes concrete exactly what kids need, more of us.


Here’s how to “play” …

“I don’t think you’re filled up with Mommy! Mommy is only up to your ankles! Let’s fill you up!”

Give your child a long tight squeeze.

“How about now? Whaaaat? Only to your knees? Ok, round 2…”

Squeeze your child again, maybe make a grimace as you act like you’re using all your might.

“What? Only to your belly? I thought I got higher! Ok, more Mommy coming, round 3…”

Once your child is filled up, do one more squeeze, saying:

“Ok, well let me give you some extra, just in case. So many changes these days, probably good to have some extra Mommy stored up in there.”


For real, this Fill Up Game may be the single best parenting idea I’ve ever had.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

It started when my eldest was having a hard time adjusting to my youngest’s birth. He was being obstinate, rude, quick to anger… all the stuff that made me want to spend *less* time around him. But then one night I softened as I realized that he was really struggling. Under his anger were these questions: “Will I still be noticed? Will I get my needs met? Will I get enough Mommy and Daddy?”
Every time he was difficult, instead of reacting, I’d try to take a deep breath and and say slowly and warmly, “I think you’re trying to tell me that you’re not filled up with Mommy. ”

My softening lead to his softening and he’d often reply saying something like, “Yeah… I’m at like 5%.” I’d give him the squeezes over and over until he was at 120%, which seemed like enough to get him through the next little while. This “game” didn’t change things on a dime, but it was certainly a turning point.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Offer your child the idea that his defiant behavior is the result of “Not Being Filled Up With Mommy.” Then introduce the Fill Up Game. Add silliness and laughter.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

And to really get bang for your buck, start doing Fill Ups proactively, before the tank gets so low that your child has to let you know with his rude tone or dysregulated behavior. Maybe before you have Lego time with your son and his younger sister or before your kids start Zoom school work, start this routine: “Can I fill everyone up with Mommy before we start?” and play the Fill Up Game with each child.

You can do the Fill Up Game in reverse, saying, “I really want to fill up on Robby, I don’t think I have enough Robby in me!! Pleeeeeeease I need some more before I go start work for the day!” Then announce, “Ahhhh. So much better. So glad I’ve filled up with enough Robby to last me a bit.”

Try This at Home:

Try the Fill Up Game each morning. Make it one of the first things you do. See how it feels to you and how your child responds. Another challenge would be to use the Fill Up Game as a way to respond to dysregulated or defiant behavior: “I won’t let you hit your sister. I also think you’re telling me that you’re not filled up with Mommy right now. Come here, sweetie, let’s fix that.”