Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kids & Games: Let Them Win or Clobber Them?

Hubby and I decided to execute the greatest form of torture on our kids that we could think of...

Family Game Night.

Well, we didn't think it would be the greatest form of torture ever. We thought we had a few more years to go before Family Game Night was seen as torture. Apparently 10 years old and 7 years old is where it begins. Fortunately for Hubby and I, we decided that 10 and 7 are the perfect ages to have some serious competition going and no longer let the kids win at games... meaning a cutthroat, hardcore, losers go home crying Family Game Night. Hells yeah.

In an effort to unplug our kids and strengthen the family unit we so desperately craved that we pulled our family together despite 2000 miles and 3 years of separation, we decided that Mondays would be Kids Cook Night, Wednesdays would be Family Game Night and Fridays would be Family Movie Night. As Wednesday approached, Hubby and I got excited; the kids, not so much. They really thought that playing board games with Mom and Dad was going to be horrible. They changed their mind by the end of the evening.

We decided to draw names from a hat to see who would pick the game. The Girl won, and chose Hedbanz. Let me tell y'all, if you have never played this game... Don't. The basic premises of the game is you stick a card to your forehead that you haven't looked at, and ask questions to try and figure out what your card is. It's fun at first, until the 7 year old does this for every single card...

"Am I an animal?" Yes. "Am I big?" Yes. "Am I a food?" No. "Am I alive?" You're an animal, aren't you? Do you think they'd put dead animals on here? "Am I a frog?" You asked earlier if you were big and we said yes. Are frogs big? "Okay then, am I a sandwich?" Seriously? 

By the 30 second mark of The Ginger trying to figure out his card, I'm ready for a shot of vodka. Tempers flare, finally either Hubby or I win and I announce that I refuse to play that game anymore. (For the record, this past Family Game Night, I won, and yes, refused to play Hedbanz ever again.) We decided to give a new game a try- The Sci or Fi Files.

Yes, this is a nerd game. Yes, the kids (and adults) will learn tons of things while playing this game. Yes, it
was slightly over the head of the 7 year old (recommended ages are 10 and up), but we all still had an amazing time playing this game. The basic premises of this game is there are science statements on a card and you have to figure out which are true or false. You get a chip for each category you answer correctly, and whoever gets all 4 category chips first wins. Hubby and I loved this game, and while the kids were skeptical at first because it was an educational game, they quickly grew to love it. Hubby and I found out that everything we were taught as kids was wrong. Did you know that if you cut an earthworm in half, both halves don't live and make 2 new earthworms? We both went around chopping earthworms in half as kids because we were taught that somewhere. And dogs don't pant because that's how they sweat. Dogs sweat through the pads on their feet. Another thing I was taught, incorrectly, when I was growing up. My entire scientific world was thrown in upheaval by this game, and I still haven't fully recovered from Pluto not being a planet anymore, thank you.

Anyway, The Sci or Fi Files- amazing game. We picked it up at our local science museum in the gift shop, but Amazon does carry it. We ended up playing 2 rounds of that game, with Hubby and I dominating the first round, and The Girl joining us in domination for the second round.

If you haven't seen a theme yet, Hubby and I are quite competitive, and no longer let our kids win at games. In fact, I think we quit doing that years ago. I used to be the mom that would go a little slower on a board game or "accidentally" drop the dice on the floor and say that I rolled a 1 instead of a 6 so that I didn't pass the then-fragile toddler on the game board.

Not anymore. My kids are 10 and almost 8. It's on, now.

This revelation came a few years ago when The Ginger beat a video game that I couldn't get out of the first level. Yes, video games are different from board games, but if the kid could master 52 levels and perform the double slash upward thrust sideways ninja kick beheading move to kill the boss on video game where I couldn't figure out how to get out of the cave that the game began in... he could lose at Candy Land, damnit.

If you are a parent that hasn't made the transition to completely obliterating your children in board games, I suggest you do it... now. Not if your kids are 2 and 4... that might be a little early to stand up and do the victory dance while yelling, 'Yeah, Mom won- EAT it!!' But if you have older kids (I'd say school age is perfect), then stop dropping dice on the floor, stop falsely reading the card you just drew to say that you need to go back to the beginning of the game, and start teaching your kids that they can't win at everything. A little competition is healthy.

Now, I'm not saying go out and buy the adult version of Trivial Pursuit and start asking the 7 year old questions about the economy in the 1980s. Play age-appropriate games with them, but make them actually try at them. Get them thinking, get them motivated to legitimately beat Mom and Dad at something. If your kids are anything like mine, they'll try hard as hell to beat you, just to say they did.

Most importantly, though, do congratulate them on a great game played if you do beat them. While Hubby and I are super-competitive (I may or may not have thrown a chess board across the room when he beat me once, shortly after we got married), we do want to teach our kids good sportsmanship. So, tell the kids they did a great job, offer a rematch, then stand up and do your victory dance.

What's in store for us this upcoming Wednesday night? Depends on whose name gets drawn out of the hat. Hubby wants to play Star Wars Monopoly, but every game of Monopoly ends the same way- with the board getting thrown across the room or someone falling asleep. I'd like to try my hand at beating the kids at a mystery game like Clue. Hubby says I cheat at that game though because I'm known for guessing a card that I already have in my hand, to throw everyone else off. He calls it cheating, I call it strategy.

What do y'all think? Is beating your kids at games a horrible parenting practice or a healthy developmental lesson? Put your two cents in below!!

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  1. I have NEVER let the kids win, even when they were toddlers. I'm way too competitive for that. As a result, we've only played games that would allow everyone to play competitively: Candyland for the toddler set, Checkers, Stratego, Monopoly, Apples to Apples, etc for the Elementary set, and now we are hard core strategy game players. We start them as early as possible on strategy games. If they're not quite old enough to play a specific game, they get teamed up with someone else. By no means is *anyone* allowed to win at our house.

    1. LOL, a lesson my kids are slowly learning. With the trivia game the other night, I helped The Ginger a little, because it was for ages 10 and up, and he's only 7. But when we play Disney Bingo, for example, there's no letting anyone win. And we all gloat when we win. It's so funny.

  2. We used to play board games all the time when I was a kid. We didn't have a television, y'see. My mum's game of choice was Boggle - which doesn't involve a board at all - and she wooped our butts every time without fail. We played first to 100 points and that usually meant about three or four rounds for my mum.

    I think it's important to learn to build your skills. I worked damn hard to increase my vocabulary so I could compete with my mum. I probably still couldn't beat her at Boggle BUT when I was just 14 I scored year two University level for my vocabulary on the Gates test. I don't doubt that some healthy competition in Boggle attributed to that.

    1. That's awesome! I love playing games where learning is involved; it helps keep the nerd in me happy. I never thought of Boggle- I was going to introduce the kids to Scategories here soon, but I think we'll try Boggle first! Thanks for the idea!!

  3. A really good word game is Quiddler. It allows you to use the dictionary between turns, and everyone is allowed to help each other. It's a great family game.