Why to play ‘The Game of Life’ with your children? And the dialogue with my inner voice

Last weekend, I played ‘The game of Life’, one of the oldest American board games, with my children and their friends. It was my first time playing this game, so my eight years old taught me the rules of Life. It was a sweet moment wherein my child was teaching me the ropes of life.:-)

He said-

The winner of the Life is the person who has the maximum money in the end.

What! Hell no! How can riches alone be the yardstick to decide the winner or the loser of life! My kids need to learn better.

Overpowered by thoughts and the parent instinct to share my 2 cents on life, I stated—

“This is all wrong!”

My inside voice warned me, “Spoiler Alert! This is just a game”, but at that moment I chose to ignore it. After all, kids develop their perspectives through games and observation. So I had to do the right thing by sharing my wisdom.

Continuing with my lecture, I said, “In reality, money is necessary to live a comfortable life, but it cannot be a measure of a successful life. The true measure is happiness, and the relationships built along the way. It is easier to keep a score of money than to count your blessings, so the reason this game uses money as the winning goal.”

Giving advise took some weight off my chest, and we started the game.

I was impressed the way this game mapped the entire life on a linear coarse.The players take turns spinning the wheel, and they move ahead the number of spaces indicated on the wheel. In the start of the game, the players have to select between the college path or the career path. I was satisfied to know that my kid had already discovered that choosing the college path meant delaying the payday rewards for later in life. Pretty cool and mature, I thought! But, my satisfaction was short lived! Despite his understanding, he chose the ‘Career path.’ The voice inside me said, “Studies comes first! Do not bypass college. Choose college <pretty please!>, and career will follow, kiddo!” This time, I pinched myself on time to not let these words out of my mouth, and we continued the game…in peace.

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The  ‘stop’ sign where the life changing events happen. This one says ‘Get married’, and the player adds one more peg to their car.

 

Throughout the game I was charmed to see the little kids make choices based on their personalities, and their rationale.

My six-year-old stopped in the space to buy a house. He had a choice between a luxury apartment or the beach hut. My son chose the luxury apartment. He said, “Beach hut would be messy.”

Later my kiddo had to choose between two career cards, Doctor or a Teacher. He chose the profession of Teacher. His reason, “It pays more to be a Doctor.”

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Career Cards

My inside voice started talking again, Son, Ask yourself twice before deciding. Is this the profession you want to embrace? Will it inspire you enough to wake up every morning and start your day?

“Shut up, will you!” I calmed my inner voice. “Keep your thoughts to yourself as this is just a game.”

Coming back to the game, the play also introduced kids to the business of lawsuit. My son got a card—Sue someone for squashing your tomatoes, and receive 50K!

img_3808He asked, “What does lawsuit mean?”. Once I explained, he was hesitant to sue any player. Then he said, “Mommy, can I please sue you?”’

“This is an outrage,” I thought. I teach my children to be kind and forgiving, while this game lets them sue. I signaled my thoughts to take a back seat.

The game ended when all the players reached the goal of retirement. Two of the children decided to retire in a  millionaire mansion, and the other two selected the countryside acres. And the reasons for the selections-

“I chose countryside because I like trees and mountains.”

“I need rooms for my whole family, so I will retire in millionaire mansion.”

“I want to be with my friend because I like him. I will go wherever he goes.”

This  board game took couple hours to finish, and introduced the children to real life events such as paying taxes, college debt, getting laid off from work, paying bank loans and collecting salaries on paydays. You may argue that all these events relate to some form of monetary exchanges, and also the real life does not follow the linear path this game follows, but what cannot be contested is the engrossment of the young minds, and the willingness to play by the rules even when life seems unfair.

Where I am concerned, the game lent me plenty of opportunities to have constructive dialogues with children, and also a sneak peek into their young minds. As a bonus, it taught me to keep my wisdom to myself, and patiently wait for the opportune time to share life lessons with my children. And most importantly, the board game gave me priceless moments with friends and family.

Readers, do you have a favorite board game that you like to play with your children?


Here are some links that share more information about this game-

http://boardgames.lovetoknow.com/The_Game_of_Life_Instructions

http://theweek.com/articles/446078/what-game-life-teach-about-success

Balancing screen time

My kids’ birthdays are approaching and we have started preparation for their party! One wants a Minecraft cake, and the other wants a Digimon. I wouldn’t have known these characters, if it were not for my kids playing video games and watching television. I honestly would prefer the cakes with soccer ball, cars, truck, balloons and rainbows, but these cute themes are outdated just like the old television series. These are the times of gadgets -tablets and video game consoles, and these cake theme characters are straight out of them.

In my emotional and impulsive Mommy Avatar, I often fancy throwing the gadgets and video consoles out of the house, but I am also the one responsible to expose them to this world of virtual entertainment, and now there is no reversing it!

Reactions aside, in the real world I strive for balanced screen time approach for my kids in partnership with my hubby. We have partially succeeded in meeting our goal, but still have a long way to go as we experiment with different approaches to achieve the herculean. In this post I share our journey as parents (the goods and the lessons learnt), in managing the screen time of our children.

First and foremost we have come to terms with the fact that our kids learn the most by observing us, so my hubby and I are mindful of spending time with the gadgets. The rules apply fairly to both, us parents and our kids.

We do not entertain screen time while we eat. So breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner are gadget free zones and we love to maintain the sanctity of dinner table and relish the food. This also means that we do not allow tablets in the restaurants, and in doing so we have implicitly exposed ourselves to becoming a victim of several unkind glances from the neighborhood tables, if and when our kids throw a fit.

Well, it has not been difficult to implement the dinner table rule, as we have had this rule for years, and my kids do not know any better. The everyday challenge for me is to get the kids to switch off the gadgets, and come to the dinner table. I have to call and remind them multiple times, stand over them before they actually switch off. There are times when one of them experiences a meltdown, and then the dinner tranquility becomes a thing of past.

To get over this issue my hubby came up with a solution to give them 10 paper tickets each week, and each ticket gives the kids 30 minutes of screen time . So when the munchkins want to play video game or watch TV,  they give us a ticket. We put on a 30 minute timer and tada we are done! Practically, this has not been an easy task. The advantage is that we were able to better manage their time in front of the screen, but I found myself policing the kids when the timer went off. They would dawdle and then resist giving back the devices, until I institute my last resort to forcefully take it away. Then again the meltdown!

Last evening I had a heart-to-heart with my kids over the kitchen counter, to explain that every day after school, they have limited fixed amount of time before they go to bed. And in those valuable hours, they want to accomplish a lot of activities- video games, dinner, homework, bath, free playtime and also bed time reading. I understand that the prime spot is always taken by the video games, but then there is a trickle effect wherein they get less time or sometimes none to get to the other activities of their choice. I was leading this discussion to give an insight into their daily routine, and thus help them to create their own timetable. At the end of the talk, we were successful in creating a draft of the weekday calendar, which I would implement next week. I reckon that the kids would have more interest to follow the routine they have created, rather than the one forced upon them. I will put this theory to test next week, and the results would be conclusive.

In lieu of monitoring our kids media usage, we also let them select two days of their choice every week, which are screen free. There is a reason why I call them ‘get bored days’, for every two minutes I have one of my boys complaining, “I am getting bored!.” At that time I gently remind them the purpose of the day. These two days are challenging for the kids and for me too, as I have to make myself available to keep the boys entertained constructively. But after an initial hour or two of whining, the kids get engrossed into some imaginative self entertainment, such as pretend plays.

In conjunction with the screen time, it is significant to review the quality of the content the children view. My kids often come to me with requests to buy some apps on the iPad- either they heard about it from their older friends or while browsing app store. I make sure to review the ratings and user comments before purchasing it, and the kids also understand they will not get something which is rated 17+ for violence and language.

It is important for me to remain involved with my kids lives to offer them a balanced opportunity to appreciate the nature, remain physically active, explore their passion, and concurrently still be able to catchup with the ever evolving technology. For me, I enjoy playing ‘Super Mario’ on the console with them, as much as I have fun playing tag. So to each his own!

Photo credit: JuditK via Foter.com / CC BY-ND