The Virtues of Board Games

I like board games.  One of the perks for me as a child psychologist is that I get to play board games in the course of a day.  It helps children relax and talk about their lives, and I learn about them from the way they play.  But I also like board games for interactions at home.  They provide great ways for parents to spend a little time with their children.  Let’s face it—most parents are not that skilled at video games to join in.  And I might be showing my age here, but I don’t believe that video games offer the same type of engagement.

Some parents report that their children are sore losers so that it is hard to play with them.  I like to tell children that we can alter the rules as long as both players agree, and the rules stay the same through the game.  (That means don’t change the game when you’re losing.)  It’s possible to offer to play with easy or hard rules, depending on how the child is feeling. 

Parents can also help by reining in their own competitive instincts and offering to teach during the game.  This isn’t the same as just playing dumb and letting the child win.  When a child is about to make a move that misses a really good opportunity or that gives you a tremendous advantage, you can say, “Wait, can I show you what happens if you do that? Want to make another choice?”  This way your child avoids the shame and frustration of constantly losing (after all he’s younger).  As he learns the game, you can negotiate about withdrawing the supports.  As long as you both agree on the rules, it’s still a fair game. 

So, enjoy a ten or fifteen minute respite over Sorry or Checkers.  Let me know what games you enjoy with your children.  It’s brief, and it takes you both out of the business of life.

Watch for an upcoming Parents’ Corner newsletter in which I talk more about games and their usefulness.

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