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Parenting Tip #5 How Playing Board & Card Games Can Teach Your Kids Different Lessons

Playing board & card games with your kids can be a very fun experience.  It can also be frustrating experience if our kids are arguing, gloating, whining & complaining.  That being said, playing games can be a fantastic teaching tool.  It is one I use not only in therapy but with my step-kids & niece & nephew. I like to play several games but tend to stick with playing Rummy, Go Fish & UNO.  Here are some of the teaching goals I focus on when playing games:

Setting Rules: Initially when meeting with kids, I always play games & let them set the tone, even the rules.  Let's be honest, most of the time, kids are breaking the rules &/or cheating, as a way of testing you.  They are looking for your reaction & how you will respond.  I allow for the "rule breaking" initially as a way of building trust so the kids I work with hopefully see that I see/hear them.  I gently set limits & remind them of the rules.  Eventually, they tend to respond because they trust in my consistency.

Communication: Playing games is a great way to communicate with your kids whether you are talking about your day, the game itself or maybe what's going on. I have found that kids often share more when they are distracted doing something vs. sitting across from you talking while looking at you.  

Frustration Tolerance: I have found that we all, especially kids, get frustrated when they think they are losing. On top of that, when frustrated, we tend to make more mistakes.  When I notice someone is getting frustrated, I take the opportunity to tell kids my observations about their behavior & explain that it looks like they are getting frustrated.  I also explain that when we are frustrated we tend to make more mistakes & I will point out the mistakes they are making as we are playing the game.  Lastly, I encourage them to take a deep breath & slow down.

Patience: Being patient while playing games can be challenging.  Sometimes we have a hard time waiting our turn, want the game to move more quickly, or just want the game to be done. When I notice kids are struggling with being patient, again I take the opportunity to tell kids my observations about their behavior & explain that it looks like they are being inpatient.  I then encourage them to wait their turn & praise them when they do.

Sportsmanship: It can be hard when we lose games to others.  It can also be challenging when the winner of the game starts gloating & bragging, even putting the other person down for losing.  Again I take the opportunity to tell kids my observations about their behavior & model using "I" Statements that when they are gloating, bragging or putting me down, "I feel hurt", "I feel disappointed", or even "I am frustrated" with how they are behaving.

Team Work: Playing a games is a great way to teach team work. It is an opportunity to learn how to cooperate with others.  It is also an opportunity to practice communication, listening & managing frustration. It gives a a chance to set an example & to reinforce team work, express feelings appropriately & sportsmanship while also setting limits with gloating & bragging.

Strategy: Playing games is a great way to teach our kids how to think ahead while playing & develop strategy in how we play the game. When I play with kids who are becoming frustrated, I am always paying attention to what they are missing in the game.  For example, when playing Rummy, I remind the kids that we are playing for points & when they miss the 3 cards in the discharge pile, I gently point out that the more frustrated they are the more mistakes they might make.

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