Is competition a good thing? How do you teach your children to win and lose graciously? Aren’t there better ways to teach your kids than just playing games? Join AMBrewster as he discusses how Christian parents can use games to parent to the glory of God.
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Welcome to Season 6!
This season we’re focusing on daily life. We’re going to discuss very specific issues such as chores and friends, pornography, allowances, pets, and what to do when the whole family is stressed.
Of course, we’re going to address it all from a biblical context with our highest goal to apply God’s Word to our parenting.
I hope you’re looking forward to the next three months!
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Alright, so what better way is there to start a conversation about daily family life than to discuss family time?!
My goal today is two-fold:
1. I’d like to discuss the importance of games.
2. I want to share with you some of my family’s favorites and explain how they can be valuable to your family.
And if you missed our last episode about what it means to have a “valuable” family, I’d encourage you to listen to it.
And, while you’re at it, think about listening to our show all the way back from our Pilot Season. Our content is evergreen and always relevant.
Alright, so why is playing games with your kids so important?
Well, there are the clear educational benefits:
Kids of any age can learn their letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Grouping is often a big part of game playing as well. There’s also the hand/eye coordination inherent in many games.
But let’s be honest, games that accomplish these ends for younger children can often be taxing to an adult. Games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders were mostly invented to handle the colors, numbers, and words, but for the most part, they’re all chance and luck of the draw.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t provide benefit far beyond the basics. Consider these two concepts which are true for every single game and in every single family on the planet:
1. We can’t deny the relationship building aspect of game playing.
For those of you who don’t know, I work full-time at Victory Academy for Boys. It’s a boarding school for at-risk teens, and we get all sorts of boys. In addition, I have an eleven year old boy and nine year old girl of my own in the house.
One of the things we do to build relationships with our immediate family and Victory family is play games. And I tell the guys,“Not wanting to play a game with someone says more about your relationship with that person than it does your enjoyment of the game.”
Well, it was shortly after one such admonition that my then seven year old daughter asked one of the guys to play Candy Land with her. I saw this sixteen year old scrapper looking down at my daughter, his eyes drifted up and met mine, I smiled at him, and he said, “Sure.”
Well, after trashing him in the first game, he said, “No, we’re playing again.” I’m pretty sure they played about six to seven games before he finally beat her.
The point is, that was an amazing time for my little girl, and I believe it was for him too. He lightened up so much, and I think they really enjoyed each other’s company after that.
So, games are extremely important for building relationships. And it goes far beyond card games and board games and tile games. Playing cars or dolls or soldiers or some other imaginative game is incredibly important to building lasting bonds with your child.
And — to be honest — I don’t care if you don’t like playing games. I don’t care if you don’t like imagining. It’s good for our kids. It’s good for our families. Let’s not let our selfishness get in the way.
There’s a lot in the media these days about Reactive Attachment Disorder. I work with RAD boys all the time, and I hope to do a whole episode on Reactive Attachment at some point in the future, but I can tell you that purposeful and age-appropriate times of investment are undeniably necessary.
2. Playing games with our kids gives us a perfect venue for teaching them to win and lose graciously.
Now, I have to start with an important caveat. If you’re a hard-core gamer who lives to squash everybody you play and who whines and makes excuses when you lose . . . then guess what you’re going to teach your kids.
Yeah, once again we’re being reminded that we can’t expect to live our lives however we want and think our kids aren’t going to turn out like us. But by the grace of God they may not, but it’s far more likely that they’re going to live just like us.
So, dad, mom, we need to know what it is to win and lose graciously.
How do we do that? Well, I think your family should listen to our Four Family Loves series. If we love each other, it will be easy to play for enjoyment instead of domination. If you love each other, it’s easy to celebrate another’s victory. However, all of that becomes very difficult if you’re being selfish.
I know all about this. When I was very young my parents stopped playing games with me. I was such an arrogant little kid that I would look at the game, make the judgement that “This should be easy,” expect to beat the adults in the room, and then be furious when I didn’t.
My parents actually told me they wouldn’t play with me anymore until I learned to lose graciously.
By God’s grace, nowadays, nearly every time I teach a game to someone, they end up winning and I lose terribly. I try my best to help them understand the game, learn the strategy, keep them from making newbie mistakes, and not destroy them.
One more thing that’s helped me learn to be content with losing is a lesson I learned from Proverbs 16:33.
A few weeks ago my family was playing Yahtzee and my daughter rolled a Yahtzee (that’s a roll where all five of the dice land on the same number). Then my son rolled a Yahtzee; then my wife rolled a Yahtzee . . . and then I didn’t.
I seriously lost that game. Well, after I didn’t get a Yahtzee over and over, my daughter patted me o the shoulder and said she was sorry for me.
I must have been in the Spirit at the time because I told her that it really was okay. Yahtzee is a game of chance and Proverbs 16:33 says that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
Our God is sovereign over the toss of a die, the selection of a card, and the choosing of a tile.
When we or our children get annoyed because we didn’t get the number or color or animal we wanted, we’re showing our discontentment with God’s sovereignty in our lives and ignoring Romans 8:28-29 that promises that even when we lose a game, God wants to use that occasion to mature us into the image of Christ.
Now, we could talk the rest of the day about the benefits of playing games. From the basic number and color recognition to the mature concepts of understanding and applying strategy, games are so important.
So, now I want to share with you what our game cabinets look like and tell you how playing these games can be great for your family.
First, let’s remind ourselves of the top three reasons to play any and all games:
Okay, so we have a lot of the games that were popular in the 90’s when my wife and I were teens. You know, Outburst, Taboo, Tri-Bond, and Cranium. But honestly, no on in the house prefers those games. Neither my wife nor I, my kids, or the boys in my house.
Sometimes I pull them out for variety, and you’re not a bad person if you like them. To be honest, I’ve found from watching my son how valuable Taboo is. It helps him learn to make abstract connections between various concrete ideas. It also builds his vocabulary by requiring him to quickly think of synonyms.
Real quick, there’s a newer game that takes the same skills Taboo requires and takes it to the next level. If you haven’t played CodeNames, you need to check it out. Man, it’s a challenge, but it stretches the mind to make new synoptic bridges between ideas and words. And that’s like bench pressing for a child’s mind.
But, anyway, my family also loves to play the classic games from time to time. We enjoy Monopoly. We use it to teach handling money, basic math, and biblical stewardship concepts. Life is very similar. Clue helps with deduction skills, and I use Stratego to teach my kids basic war strategy.
We also enjoy Othello and Chess. Chess is actually a new favorite in my family. I absolutely love it because there’s no randomness. There’s no chance. Every possible move and piece can be seen. You just have to figure it out. And there are a lot of games like that. Blokus is cool. Score Four, Mancala, and Connect Four, are similar.
There’s another slice of the gaming world that’s built on balance. My family doesn’t play these games as often. But games like Jenga and the amazing German game called Villa Paletti are super good for coordination and finesse.
Then there’s Rummikub, Take it Easy, Pirates Dice, Qwirkle, Rack-O, Set, Uno, Skip-Bo, Dutch Blitz, and nearly every card game which are great strategy games that incorporate elements of chance.
I’m also a huge fan of word games. Now, my kids are a little young to truly appreciate and be successful at Scrabble, but I’m very much looking forward to the day I introduce them to Scrabble, Boggle, and UpWords.
These games build brain power as the child has to learn basic strategy, but then they’re forced to make momentary changes to their strategy as random elements come into the game.
We also really like Backgammon — this is potentially the world’s oldest game, and works off the same principles.
But then there are a whole slough of our favorite games that I like to describe as simulation games. These games often involve multiple steps that are designed to create a civilization, town, economy, or business. They require various levels of strategy, psychology, and people skills.
Monopoly is a classic version of this type of game, but my family’s favorites are the following:
We love Dominion! It’s a card based game with a ton of add ons and expansions. The game has super unique elements that make it unlike most games I play.
We also really love Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Cosmic Encounter, Settlers of Catan, and Alhambra.
I think my family really loves these games because they’re super cerebral. As I already mentioned, they require different strategy and plans that span various facets of the game. But they also have a super important element I discussed in episode 137. On the show I talked about teaching your kids to enjoy doing the right things by helping them see how the action or information can be used to create things.
Well, these games do just that. In Dominion you’re basically creating a society of cards that all work together. Cosmic Encounter is building a civilization of alien beings. Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, and Alhambra require the player to build villages and cities, and Ticket to Ride is about manufacturing a sprawling system of railroads.
This element of actually creating something is so important because that’s what God created us to do. I think the old game Mousetrap is a perfect example of this. I don’t know anyone who’s ever really played the game, but I do know that almost everyone has built the Mousetrap from time to time.
Also, in Genesis two and three God commands mankind to steward and manage the world. Games like these teach us many of the skills necessary to have Dominion in this world (pun intended).
So, those are some of my family’s favorite games.
“Some?!” you ask?
Yeah, we have more, and there are plenty more games in our cabinets. We have Twister, Jumanji, Battleship, Azttack, Resistance, We Didn’t Playtest This at All, and many more.
If you can’t tell, we believe that game playing is extremely important.
But, before we end today, I want to address one more concern some of you may have.
Now, we already discussed that we need to win and lose graciously, but our society has been trying to convince us for years that competition in general is bad.
But is that true? Is it sinful to compete?
I have to say, no.
Here are some biblical observations and principles to support my point.
First, Paul uses a number of illustrations from competitive sports where he compares himself and us to boxers and runners in the Olympic games.
In addition, the Bible frequently compares us to soldiers. If that’s not competition, I don’t know what is.
The point is, competition isn’t bad as long as it’s done lovingly.
If it’s loving then it’s profitable as it’s seeking our greatest good.
When I play chess with my son, sometimes I play to help him learn to win. Sometimes I play to teach him how to lose. Sometimes we play to practice a tactic or strategy. And each of those encounters — even the ones that end with him losing — are designed to help him become more like Christ.
Don’t buy the lie that competitive sports and winning and losing are somehow dangerous to children’s psyches or self-esteem.
As I’ve observed on many occasions, our children need less self-esteem and more God-esteem. If that were the case, they would learn to trust the Lord in their losses, but they’d also learn to improve through their losses, making it easier to overcome in the future.
I don’t believe there’s any Christ-honoring reason to not play games with your kids. And though this particular episode wasn’t about sports, we can definitely make many of the same applications about basketball, archery, baseball, BMX, soccer, skiing, cattle roping, and the panoply of other options in the world of competitive sports.
Today’s episode notes include the variety of goals you can have for your game playing, and a short list of my family’s favorites.
I hope you and your kids are able to derive many hours of fun from a new game.
Please share this episode with your friends whether they be game players or not.
I know Ray and Carolyn will love this episode. They’re not only two of our beloved Patrons, but they love playing games of all sorts.
We are a listener supported ministry, and if you think the Lord would be glorified by you supporting Truth.Love.Parent., please click the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description.
And please join us next time as we tackle a more significant topic.
Again, I have to encourage those of you with younger children not to shy away from our next show. We’re going to discuss what to do if you discover your child with pornography, but we’re going to also discuss how to parent a young child who inadvertently saw something they weren’t supposed to see — perhaps in a movie or on the internet.
We can’t afford to improvise in situations like that. We need to be intentional and premeditated, so I hope that our next episode, “Help! I Just Found My Child with Porn!” will equip you for that unfortunate eventuality.
The topic of pornography is something we discuss quite a bit on social media — specifically our facebook page. Please follow us on Facebook so you’ll have access to those articles all in one place.
And never hesitate to ask our counselors for assistance. You can reach them at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
God loves for His children to have fun. He created it and desperately wants you and your children to strengthen your relationships.
In addition, He wants your children to mature and grow in the skills with which He’s gifted them.
You may as well have fun doing it!
See you next time.
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