Looking for games to play with kids? We often forget that LIFE is the biggest, most important game our kids will ever play. And it’s a game like no other.
This article was originally written for and published on SocialKids.ca.
Children learn most efficiently through play, that was already established, and children seem to play all the time, right? That’s because children still live what we, adults, have long gone forgotten – that life is a game. Life is a beautiful, fun, educating, and empowering game – if you know the rules. But if you don’t know the rules, life will be a battle, a power struggle. Want to know the rules to making life beautiful, and which games to play with kids? Read on.
Rule #1: There are No Rules
Bare with me – this is not at all a permissive parenting article. You will soon know how to set many rules, but first, I would like us to rethink the meaning of the word “rule”. Most rules we come across have to do with the human size (you might not see it this way, but this is the way it is) – in most cases it is something like “I am bigger than you, I am your parent, and you will do as I say” (thus – you are smaller than me, I am stronger, and you have to obey).
This concept of “size matters” is a social structure that was introduced at the dawn of Patriarchy some 7,000 years ago, when size became a measure of control. Feel all these words I’m using – rules, obedience, control – these words feel like they belong to a totalitarian regime rather than to parenting, right? That’s because that’s where they belong.
Somewhere along the way (I know exactly where, but it will make this article way too long) we lost the true meaning of rules and their application with the people we love most – our children. Somewhere along the way we were convinced that children must be controlled, by us, adults. However, teaching children control, fear, obedience, respect to size, have led the world to the grim situation it now is – the era most war-struck in the history of documented reality. When we teach children to obey to size, they go out to the world and demand the obedience of those smaller than them. This is the source of bullying, violence, and so many other social maladies. The best time for change is right now.
Forget about obedience, forget about respect, rules, and regulations. Open your heart – that’s the only rule. So which game applies here? Not the game of who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s bigger or smaller, but the game of “together we can make life so much more beautiful”.
Rule #2: Love is the Only Rule
There is no bigger source for motivation than the power of love and attachment. Every human being internally wants to be good to (and for) the ones he is attached to. When the attachment is in place, cooperation, collaboration, connection, and conversation become the ONLY game we play, and in this game – everyone’s a winner.
It is when the attachment is not in place, that we start playing the “who’s right” game, “who’s stronger” game. In these games – everyone loses.
I’ll give you an example you can relate to – imagine having a great evening with your loved one; you went out, talked, spent time and really bonded. The next morning he or she asks you for a cup of coffee. Not only that you will make it for them, but you’ll do it with a huge smile, and serve it with a kiss.
On the other hand, if you had a huge fight, went to sleep in two separate rooms, and then they will ask you for a cup of coffee? Oh boy! Bring out the helmets! Right?
The request is the same – a cup of coffee. But the way this request is met is determined by nothing but the attachment.
So which game should your children play? Which game should you play with your kids? I call it the “let’s come closer” game.
Rule #3: Fear Driven Learning Always Comes with a Price
When we operate out of fear, what we fear to lose is the attachment. I’ll explain – whenever you manage to get your child’s cooperation using threats or punishments – your little one fears she will lose your love, meaning she operates under the presumption that she will only be loved if she did this or that; she is operating under the presumption that your love to her is conditional and that she must comply to these conditions.
This is not only tragically harmful to those little souls, but it comes with a huge price that all of you will pay. A child who feels she can’t control her life, a child who feel her autonomy was robbed from her, that she needs to meet certain conditions to be loved, is a child who will grow to resist you further. This child will grow resentful and angry, making cooperation and collaboration a long forgotten dream. This is not the way nature intended for it to be.
Here’s another example you’d be able to relate to: imagine it’s 17:00 and you’re just about to leave the office, but your boss storms in, throws a bunch of papers on your desk, and barks “don’t leave before you sort these out”.
And the counterexample: everything is exactly the same and it is still 17:00, but your boss knocks on your door and asks you if he can come in. He proceeds to say “you are doing such an incredible job! I am endlessly thankful for the way you keep this office organized; I always know where everything is and it means the world to me, really! Could you please have these sorted out before you leave”?
In both cases – you will sort the files out, almost undoubtedly. In the first example you’ll be cursing him while sorting, saying what a terrible person he is and how unbearably tough it is to work with him. You will be operating out of fear to lose your job while growing more and more resentful towards it. You’ll come home later, frustrated and angry.
In the second example you will sort the files knowing how good you are at what you do, and how appreciated your work is. You will come home later, empowered and proud.
Kids are no different; if anything – they are much more attuned to their internal needs and mechanisms than most adults.
Rule #4: No Judgment
As soon as we have a thought in our head regarding the situation we are in – we are no longer in that situation. We are now experiencing, living the story that our brains tell us. This story may, or may not have anything to do with the current situation – but one thing is for sure: it is robbing us of the present moment.
When we lay our children to sleep, we can enjoy the moment. We can gently touch their faces, smell their sweet smells, feel their breath on our neck. We can inhale the purity, we can celebrate their being, we can melt into the love.
Or, we can let the story of how busy we are, how many dishes there are in the sink, or how much laundry is waiting for us, to take control over the moment and rob us of its beauty. And we do this all the time.
Rule #5: It is Never About the Child – it is Always About the Adult She will Become
The truth is that we are not raising children, we are raising adults. These future adults, who are currently running around all smeared in mud and chocolate, are our future leaders. And if we want to see a better world, we better start doing things differently. If we want to raise a generation of adults who are warm and compassionate, who are attuned to their needs and feelings and are attuned to the feelings of those around them, if we want to create a world of companionship and mutuality rather than war and singularity – we need to start doing things differently.
If we want to see a world of happy people, who operate from positive perspectives, who are always looking to better and empower, who are not familiar with the concepts of fear, guilt, and shame – we better start playing a different game.
A game called “let’s make life beautiful”.
Join my parenting support group on Facebook and see how you, too, can play this wonderful game.
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