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Subject: When did you stop beating your kid? rss

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Tim Deagan
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(Okay, it's a joke title, a double entendre, please save the flames for something more worthy farther down...)

Between 1978 and 1986 (age 16 to 24) I had the great good fortune of being hooked up with a couple of kick-ass gaming groups. Fun, creative and more than happy to eviscerate you (preferably slowly and painfully) while smiling and making above-par in-jokes. Kind, inclusive and merciless. Gamer heaven (at least for me )

I moved and hit a very very dry gaming spell for a long while. Now I'm 42 and have a 6 year old gaming partner. IT rocks, I'm gaming daily again for the first time since the mid-80s!! He's very very smart and (as a lot of parents know) frustrated a lot because of it. We play a wide range of games from Uno to LoTR:The Confrontation. He usually does great, but is still working on handling it when he thinks he's going to lose. He actually does fine most of the time if he actually loses and can be a great sport when he's feeling up.

I'm working towards finding a min-max solution to the issue of trying to keep him engaged in playing, teaching him to be a good sport, limiting the number of meltdowns, being honest with myself, being honest with him, teaching good gaming etiquette, creating an incentive to play clever and hard, having mutual fun and encouraging him to want to come back and try again.

Comments I've read on BGG span the gamut for parental approaches to this set of problems; handicapping, letting the kid win, never letting the kid win, etc., etc.. My preferred method is handicapping, but we have a fairly consistent rotation of new games into the house and I often don't know them well enough to have a clue how to handicap them (I'm really grateful for the BGGers who have put this kind of info in their Session Reports and Reviews meeple .)

We play a lot of games open hand with me coaching. But my goal is always to move to regular play as soon as it's feasible to encourage his development. I try not to push and I throttle back much of my gaming 'upbringing' (go for the throat, score big, be witty cool and vicious angry ) but encourage other aspects (have a LOT of fun playing so that you're doing it for the joy of gaming, no vendettas, work with the rules not against them.)

I'm inconsistent in my response methodology . Sometimes I pull my plays and let him win. Sometimes I let the chips fall where they may. Lately I've been adopting alternate victory conditions for myself. When I play black in LoTR:The Confrontation, I try to win by getting three black chars into the Shire. By mixing up my responses I mostly keep from getting bored. We also try to mix in a steady stream of games like Uno where he can hold his own with no problems.

It's hard not to rush him into games he's not ready for (cause I want to play them sooooo bad.) But I really have to give him credit. He absolutely thinks of himself as a gamer (ahhhhhhh )and he's making great strides in everything I ask of him. For the most part I attribute 75% of the meltdowns to me not paying enough attention to his blood-sugar level or how tired he is. Like many gamers, I married a non-gaming partner. Given how much gaming joy I'm getting out of my son at 6, I've clearly found another way to get another gamer in the house, grow one!

 
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Gerald McDaniel
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Sounds to me like you're doing everything right and having a lot of quality time with your son.

I used the handicapping technique with my son and daughter for several games. It wasn't long before I needed the handicap!

 
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Robert Wesley
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Okay, you asked for it!
This reminds me of a GREAT joke:

"Which of THESE doesn't belong in the 'Group'?":

egg
dog
kid
wife
hummer

Well, you can "beat an egg, the dog, a kid, or even your wife, but you CAN'T BEAT a HUMMER!"laugh
 
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Gerald McDaniel
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Regarding your title --

I always liked the attorney questioning the witness:

"Answer 'yes' or 'no'. Have you stopped beating your wife?"

Talk about no way to win! laugh
 
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Tim Deagan
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Part of the lame truth emerges...
I probably, in the interests of full disclosure mention that my gaming group that I loved so well had a hard and fast rule: If you can get a date, you have no right to be here.

I attended reguarly
 
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ɹǝsɐɹɟ
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Back in the days when there were less maps we played every map back to back
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Ooh a little higher, now a bit to the left, a little more, a little more, just a bit more. Oooh yes, that's the spot!
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I did marry a gamer (and so did my wife). Anyway, Daughter the Elder turned 6 recently. During the 3-4 years most games, with the exception of memory games, are pretty much purely luck based, i.e. Snakes & Ladders. This hopefully gets them used to sometimes you will win, sometimes you will lose.

Daughter the Elder is very interested in our games and her reading skills are now where quite a few of them are theoretically possible. Although I have found that six year olds are not generally big on strategy

Generally when starting a new game with her we will play open hands (Ticket to Ride with tickets visible and cards visible). Melissa and I also tend to be a little less cutthoat, but only a little meeple

For some games we play a cut down version, i.e. Carcassonne without farmers. Although I think we should be able to introduce that rule soon.

We play Settlers normally. Daughter the Elder specialises on Cities and Ports, however she can beat us and we are certainly not helping her.

I would say the main suggestions are start with one or more of playing with either reduced rules until aquainted with game or something like open hands. As your child's experience with the game grows you can convert back to normal rules/conditions.

Daughter the Younger isn't two yet, so it will be a little while before we have a four player game ready to go every night at home meeple
 
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Hans Persson
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> Although I have found that six year olds are not generally
> big on strategy

This is true, but it's also something of a dual-edged sword. You are subconsciously used to people playing according to a plan, and when someone does something completely off the wall they may well succeed, since nobody else thought anyone would try it.


When introducing new games, we often play a game or a few with cards open, and then move on to regular play. For games where it's feasible, there may be handicap rules.

Rack-O: Children needs to get the cards in order, adults also need three cards in direct sequence. Lately we've moved Henrik up to two cards in direct sequence as well.

Trivia games: We've tried a few trivia games (apart from the ones that have separate questions for children and adults). A few options are letting childred consider every square a "pie square", or allowing children to try to answer any question before the person who actually drew the question (this way you want to draw an easy question, but not too easy, since then you'll lose it before getting to answer it).
 
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Louise Holden
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Playing to win
It is a tricky situation I know; my son's 12 now and we've been playing games since he was small.

I think there's a difference between not playing competitively against a child and actually making wrong moves so that they can win. I'm very uncomfortable about the second; it doesn't teach tactics and it doesn't seem entirely honest.

Handicapping may be the best solution if you can work out a way to do it; not always easy with some games, but children understand what you're doing and seem to play well to it. Also anything that makes the game less a matter of planning ahead and more a matter of making the right move for now helps a lot; young children find planning ahead very difficult, if they can do it at all, whereas they can be quite competent at finding the right choice to score points now.

It's only been in the last year or so that Connor has been able to compete effectively with (some!) adults at games which require a lot of forward planning like Elfenland and Puerto Rico, despite having no problems actually playing the games. More immediate games such as Carcassonne and even games like Vinci he's been reasonably good at for years.

In some ways (and I know that parents may feel uncomfortable with this) there's a lot to be said for fostering the view that children can expect to lose a lot of games when they are playing adults; generally children are keen enough to play that they learn to accept this with reasonable grace. Not all the time though; that would be far too much to expect them to put up with. Beating your parent ought to be a bit of an event though; something to be proud of, not something that usually happens!
 
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Alan Richbourg
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Choose one game
One thing to do with kids is limit the types of games you play. For example, my kids have focused on learning and becoming good at chess. This is different from the typical adult game group where different games come to the table every week. By focusing on a small number of games, the kids develop confidence easier, thus growing their interest in playing. Actually this approach works well with a lot of adults also.
 
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Derek H
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A dash of luck
From my own years of experience (my children are only just pre-teens, and have been gaming quite a while), you need to also toss in games that have a fair share of luck. My son rolls great dice - no other term for it - whereas my luck "skills" are low. )The averages are probably the same, but the timing isn't!!) Apart from that, cooperative-type games where you can help with their moves are good - Expedition is one that springs to mind.

My advice to my kids (and myself!!) - if you're not playing to have fun - don't bother.
 
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Gerald McDaniel
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Boy, what a great group of parents responding here. You folks are doing a serious job of parenting, with excellent ideas. My wife and I tried all of the approaches listed above at one time or another, and they all work -- some better for certain situations and certain children. I have to admit I have probably been less personally competitive when playing with my grandchildren than I was with my own children. My adult children are very competitive game players, and they win more games than my wife and I do (might have something to do with age, too, of course), and my grandchildren are already excellent game players (ages 6 and 8). I applaud all of you for your thoughtful efforts. I'm sure you will be as happy and proud with your results as we have been.
 
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Michael Gilbert
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I have to agree with gamesgrandpa; there is a lot of good advice here.

We've been working with our son Patrick for a couple of years now (he is currently seven). My wife and I both game, so now it is nice to be able to play 3-player games without leaving home.

We don't play cutthroat against him, but we don't really pull any punches, either. The wife & I can still beat on each other, which has the twin effects of taking it easy on him and letting him learn via osmosis that adults can sometimes play a little more viciously. We don't really handicap, either, as it seems that he does get some sense of satisfaction at beating us at an adult game.


We do give him advice during the game, but generally let him do what he wants if he insists on doing something "unorthodox". For instance, when we play Settlers of Catan he insists on building development cards, usually at the expense of expanding his settlements.

So far he has been a gracious loser (for a 7-year-old). One thing we usually do in this regard is to play the same game multiple times in a day. Now, when a game ends he usually says "good game; can we play again?" We still have to work on being a gracious winner, though. Usually when he wins, he spends the next day or two saying something like "I played really good at Carcassonne yesterday, didn't I?" laugh

Tim's advice about not playing games when he's tired is spot-on. Our only problems with meltdowns have been when we start a game too close to bedtime.

I do think he really enjoys boardgames, and he does mention them sometimes at school. He does play the occasional boardgame for kids, but in general seems to prefer lighter adult fare (Carcassonne, Air Baron, Settlers of Catan, Formula Dé, Ticket to Ride). I put together a GeekList a little while ago about this ( http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listi... ). He has won at Carcassonne, Settlers and Ticket to Ride. He can beat me at Formula Dé, but my wife always beats us both.

Since the original poster mentioned his 1978-86 gaming group... I was in a gaming group from 1984-1990, until I graduated from college and moved to Syracuse. Our group is now spread out between Baltimore, Southern NJ & Northern NJ. They will all be at my place tomorrow for a day-long gaming extravaganza. We plan to play Republic of Rome which will probably take most of the day, but do plan to play a couple of lighter games so that my son can play against 4 or 5 adults.
 
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Shawn Christenson
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Myf ather beat me alll the time. It was mainly at Chess, Checkers and Othello, but he always beat me. I don't think I won a game against him untill I was 12. But hey, I was always a good sport about it, and it tought me to enjoy myself even if I was losing, going to lose, etc. I asked him why many times, he never let me win. He always said that if he let me win, I wouldn't know that I achieved greatness on my own. I never really understood it untill later.
 
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Owen Stenseth
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I have two children 6 and 8. We do a lot of the things sugested here. I find that open hands really helps when playing the first few times. The youngest is just learning to read but he can play Ticket to Ride with open hands. Usually they are very focused on one Ticket at a time and cannot see alternate connection routes very well. They also hate to see three locomotives come up at the same time so they will take one whever two of them come up. I have no idea why the thought of discarding those cars offends them so much but it does.

Interestingly enough I think that gamers in general will adjust their style to fit the group that they are gaming with. I know that there are certain games that I can play cutthroat with my wife but there are others that will never be played again if I play that way (Pirate's Cove is bad for this if you take it too seriously).

I think it's also important to play their games with them from time to time. We have all the "junior" series of games and they enjoy them all. Games like Junior monopoly introduce them to simple money concepts and the joy of getting "both" stands in a certain area. The luck in these games evens things out so that you can play as hard as you want and sometimes they are going to win. Although I have to say that I am glad to not have to play Candyland or Snakes and Ladders anymore. Talk about a brain burner.

In the end I don't think there is any best way to play games with your children, the simple fact that you are playing with them will turn them into gamers. I know that since I have started collecting games my oldest son now thinks that's cool and he wants to do the same.
 
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Dana More
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Emotionally, most six year olds have a tough time coping with losing. Some take it harder than others. I have 3 sons, ages 11, 11 (twins!), and 9, and my oldest hates to lose so much it makes him reluctant to play games. The other two deal with it better.

I think a big part of dealing with losing is just their personality type. I was hyper-competitive as a youth, and just HATED losing. It would spoil my mood for hours. Now, I just enjoy competing, and winning is the icing on the cake. What changed? I got older. I had children, and learned something called perspective. That's tough when you're six.

I would say, play lots of games, keep it fun and light, point out his clever moves, and make it a positive experience. I'd let him win at least half the time, to keep him interested. But NEVER let him know you let him win. My older brother never let me win anything (as far as I know), so it was so sweet when I finally did.
 
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Tim Deagan
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New idea for us!!
We just brought home Lost Cities and it started out being a fuss fest 4 cards into the round. We stopped and talked about what was going on (it seems like this has been happening a lot this week and not as much prior.) My phenomenally self-aware 6 year old thought about it and told me that it was challenging to have a lot of new games show up that he didn't have familiarity/comfort with. Wow! I still wanted to play, so we came up with the idea of changing sides every other turn (we were already playing open hand.)

This worked great, low stress, everybody won and we look forward to playing the game again.
 
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Jeff Carey
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My advice: I don't think there's one best answer. Since he's only six, do whatever makes your son enjoy playing the most on any given day. If he's having a rough day, let him win. If he seems capable of handling a loss, let him lose if it turns out that way (since learning to handle losses gracefully is a valuable skill). If he wants to play again, play again. If he doesn't, don't. Just make him enjoy it.

Some days you'll get to play your best game. Other days you wont, but you'll be investing in your son's emotional well being, in building a future gaming partner, and in building a good relationship with your son. It's a win-win situation.

Good luck!
 
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