Game Day

By Josh Farnsworth
With the pandemic still very much keeping us home and this lovely January frigidness keeping us specifically inside our home, board games offer an escape my kids have begun to embrace.

Attitude is contagious.

When it comes to our kids, we are living, breathing models

for them to observe and - oftentimes - copy this behavior to learn, adapt, etc.

Side note: they all laughed at me when I told them I was destined to spend part of my life as a model. Achievement unlocked.

Some are good attitudes (holding door open for others), some are less-than-ideal (yelling at other people) and still others depend on how we understand and channel that attitude (yelling at TV, but the referee just made a really poor call, and now your team has to punt).

One of the attitudes I always knew would fall into that third category would be talking to my kids about competitiveness. It’s in my blood, and they come from my blood, so, well, you get the picture.

Competitiveness can be healthy, exciting and a great teacher and character builder, if channeled properly. If not, sadness, anger and bitterness are sure to follow. Luckily, I have the ultimate platform for teaching this: board and card games.

I. Love. Board and card games.

Few things make me happier than spending a few hours settling in Catan, collecting rent when a visitor stays at my hotel at Marvin Gardens or marching my green army into “Eastern United States” to conquer the Risk world.

With the pandemic still very much keeping us home and this lovely January frigidness keeping us specifically inside our home, board games offer an escape my kids have begun to embrace. They are already experts at Monopoly Junior, Guess Who, Don’t Break the Ice and UNO - the official game of our household.

My youngest especially is an UNO card shark. Nothing both flutters and crushes my heart like a four-year-old sweetly informing me that my turn has been skipped, he has uno card left and there is nothing you can do about it, sucker!!

They love these games, which means my goal of turning them into board game aficionados is nearly complete. Step 1 of master plan to get them excited about board games? Complete. Step 2 is to foster their competitiveness into something helpful.

To do so, I have noticed a few helpful tips and trends that will also keep those last few strands of your sanity unsnapped…

Practice “game trash-talking”.

Separating gamesmanship from spite takes tact. If everyone is capable of buying into the gaming experience and “give each other a hard time in the spirit of fun,” it enhances the experience. It’s the only time in life kids should be allowed to give you an “In your face!” and get a high five back. Proceed with caution with this, however.

Get ‘em. 

In other words, don’t throw the game all the time. Letting kids gain confidence is important, but make sure to take it to them and win yourself just as often. This will help mold gracious winners and understanding losers. In turn, will also make the losses easier to stomach and the wins feel that much sweeter.

Dice game? Get a box.

My kids fire dice rolls like a Pedro Martinez fastball across the table, and nothing ends a board game quicker than needing a search party to find the dice. Have them roll into the box. Trust me. Their attention spans require it.

Be the lightning rod.

My kids may greet my arrival at their owned Video Arcade space in Monopoly Junior with a bat looking to shake me down for $3 of sweet cash. Make sure all that fierceness is aimed at you, and not any other siblings. Pay the $3. Take the shot to that pride.

Shake hands. 

Everyone does this at the end of each game. Explain what is in that handshake. That end-of-game handshake is an agreement that while we were able to fool around with that “game trash talk”, sportsmanship is the most important part of any game.

This goes for me, too, even if I was thatclose to climbing that last ladder to victory, but ran into one last chute.

Competitiveness is a tricky tightrope to walk sometimes.

That said, the time spent on some of these character-building stages in their lives is worth the hours of reading directions, picking up hundreds of pieces and tears.

My tears. 

I told you, I’m competitive.

Life is complicated these days, and filled with stress as we look out of our frosted windows this winter. Life experiences can be few and far between. Board and card games give us parents a chance to teach humility, teamwork and have a level playing field adults and kids can meet on.

Attitude is moldable. These kids, after all, are watching yours and amending their attitude into “little yous”. You might as well make them humble, positive little yous, while having fun in the process.

So go ahead and play that skip card against me, Milo. Let me pay for that next trip to your arcade space, Cooper.

It will be well worth the trip.

And if you guys want to talk me into one more?

Game on.

Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at josh.farnsworth@yahoo.com.