Playing games with kids isn’t always sunshine and roses. I know I write about a lot of fun family memories, so it may seem that we never fight, argue, or get upset. That is false. Sometimes there are tears, frustration, and sadness. And that’s okay, too.
We try to prevent these situations before they happen (more on how to do that below), but just a few months ago my son flipped the game board for the first time. We were playing Blokus Trigon, and one of us took the space he had planned to play on next. He really, really wanted to take back the last set of moves, and we said no. So he pushed all the pieces off the board in a huff. We put the game away despite his requests for a do-over. It was late, and he was tired, and after a while he calmed down.
Really, it’s amazing that hadn’t happened before. I know I feel angry when my strategy is thwarted or I failed to foresee an opponent’s move. I want to flip the board, too. So, how do we prevent that?
How to stop before they (or you) flip the board
- Trust your gut. Sometimes you set up a game, explain the rules, and start playing, and something just doesn’t feel right. You’re not in the right mood, or they’re not. Just like you don’t have to finish every book you start (really, you don’t!), you don’t have to finish every game either. Listen to your instincts.
- Check the clock. 90% of all meltdowns in my house are due to tiredness. Starting a game too late in the evening can be a recipe for disaster. It’s tempting to just stay up a little bit late to finish a game. If you can, save it for the next day. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Plan for snack time. The other 10% of meltdowns are due to hunger. Board gaming may seem like a basic need, but sleep, shelter, and food come first.
- Don’t overgeneralize or punish. It can be tempting to worry that these incidents will repeat themselves over and over. Or that you need to enforce a consequence if they do flip the board. They’ll be okay, and the only natural consequence needed is that we stop playing the game and take a break. Maybe that game goes back in the closet for a while. Try it again later, or just pick a different game. Don’t punish yourself either. I could have (and maybe should have) let him take the turn back and reset. It would be consistent with my philosophy of gaming with kids. But I didn’t, so we dealt with the meltdown instead.
- Model good losing behavior and talk about your feelings. It’s good to talk about what to do when you’re feeling frustrated. (“Take a deep breath and ask for help,” says Daniel Tiger.) Sympathize with them if something goes wrong, and try to help them focus on the things they did right. And congratulate yourself if you’ve just handled a gaming-related meltdown. Deep breaths all around.
Does your kid ever flip the board? What strategies do you use to prevent it? Add your comments below, and subscribe to have more posts like this delivered to your inbox.