A great way to deliberately encourage children is to play board games. Board games give children and parents an opportunity to connect with each other for no other purpose than to have fun. At the same time, they teach children turn taking, how to follow directions and how to handle winning and losing. Simple games like Memory, Candyland and Hi-Ho Cherrio are best with young children. As your child grows older more complex games can be played. Card games like Go Fish, Old Maid, UNO, and Concentration also can provide a special family fun night.
A mistake that parents can make when playing games with children is to let them win. This is not only discouraging to a child, but it is also disrespectful. Part of playing a game is to learn how to play better. When parents allow children to win, they mistakenly send a message that they do not believe their child is capable of learning how to play a game. It also mistakenly teaches children that they should win every game they play.
Challenges may arise if a child becomes angry about playing a game poorly. This provides a natural opportunity for parents to let a child discover that losing is part of the game. If a child is upset about playing a game poorly, say, “Sometimes we lose when we play games and sometimes we win. What I really like is playing the game so we can laugh and have fun together. If the game is not fun for someone, they are welcome to stop playing. Would you like to stop playing?” Give your child the chance to leave the game if she wishes. If your child decides to continue playing but chooses also to continue to get angry then you might say in a friendly but firm voice, “I see that the game is not going to be so much fun tonight. I am going to stop playing for tonight.” Without any further words, put up your playing pieces and exit the game. It is likely your children will ask you to stay. They may even become angry with the child who was misbehaving during the game. Do not re-enter the game. Let your actions speak for you. By letting children discover that the purpose of game night is to have fun, you ensure that you and your children will have many enjoyable game nights in the future.
©Cindy Walton-McCawley, M.Ed & Kathleen A. Walton. The Courageous Parent. Columbia, SC: Adlerian Child Care Books, 2009.
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