Hurry ! Before the rush of back to school events begins to take over your calendar, plan a weekly game night. Book it on your calendar. Then, turn off the tv and video games, put away your phone or IPAD, and leave the dirty dishes in the sink. Meet your family at the kitchen table or some cozy spot around your house and play an old favorite.
Even your littlest ones can join in on a more advanced game if you choose a game where they can have a job to do or a modified version made just for them. Allow yourself to bend the rules, and make the game fit your family’s style, time frame, and specific needs and interests. Let the kids get creative and allow them to add new rules to the game. This can mean simply tweaking the smallest procedure or objective so that you get to play it with a new spin, and the kids get to feel like they are in charge of the fun.
If you meet weekly for your family game night, allow a different family member to pick the game for next week and book it on the calendar so it is “planned in stone”. If you’re consistent your kids won’t worry that they haven’t had a chance to choose the game because they will know their turn is right around the corner.
While you play together, keep your eyes open so that you can see new skills you didn’t know your child had… (Maybe that third grader is an aspiring banker, or maybe your preschooler has fine motor skills that help him succeed at building great Mouse Traps). Let them see you relax and focus on them while you smile and engage in the fun.
While you play, observe their behavior. Catch them when they are acting respectfully or when they have followed directions. Be specific and note exactly what you see that is positive. For example: “Kerry, I noticed you asked your brother if you could help him move his game piece when it was out of his reach,” or “Tim, when you found out that Mark was the winner of the game I noticed that you were upset but you didn’t yell or scream you just said, ‘good game’.” Tell them you noticed their good sportsmanship and polite behavior, and then watch them try to repeat the positive behavior over and over again.
When it comes to winning or losing, allow them to suffer through the losses naturally so that they learn it is a part of life. Set boundaries from the beginning for sportsmanship and consequences for the inevitable fussing, hurting or quitting. Write these boundaries/rules or consequences on paper or draw a picture to depict what will happen when kids don’t make good choices. When and if the those negative behaviors come up simply point and state…”The rules say ‘no fussing or you will lose a point’.”
And by the way, it doesn’t have to be a board game … What about a game of freeze tag or capture the flag in the backyard on these crisp end of summer nights? What about making up a new game with the gigantic blow up ball your kindergartener got for his birthday? The only rules are family and fun…
Soon enough your schedule will be booked with homework, parent teacher conferences, and holiday plans so make a date weekly to connect on a positive level with your children. Use these moments with your children as “parent-able moments” where you show your child how to play nicely and let them see that your family knows how to relax and have fun together… Make it a Game Night tonight…