The Go Fish Showdown

posted in: life lessons

I sat down to play a game of Go Fish with my six year old, sounds innocent enough, right?? Well, let’s just say it did NOT go according to plan...there was whining about not having any matches, there were tears, there was yelling. For an otherwise rational child (not always well behaved of course), but generally pretty reasonable, it was so frustrating for me to see her completely losing her mind over a card game. How did we get here? And where is the hidden camera telling me it’s a set up? If it had been an episode of “What Would You Do?” I would have been the “Don’t”, by the way. Of course, we had been dealing with this in varying degrees and situations off and on for a little while, but I finally realized that what I was saying and how I was handling it was not getting through. Maybe it will pass on it’s own? Maybe I would donate all the playing cards and board games and sports equipment to a deserving cause? Should I just let her win and save my sanity? All tempting options (and on some days avoidance may be a better choice if you don’t have the energy for a tantrum or teachable moment). But then I kept thinking of sending her out into the world totally unprepared to lose, like EVER. Is she going to avoid any situation where a winner is declared? Are classmates and coaches going to get in on it and just let her win? That just isn’t real life, things are hard, sometimes you lose and it’s okay. We do them a disservice if we don’t teach resilience and how to accept a loss and persevere. When I need a new approach, I tend to look for outside resources, whether it be coffee with a wise mom friend, a book (for parent or child), a website, or a blog post. I personally like to take bits and pieces from all different sources to shift my perspective and build my own strategy until something clicks.

Here are some things I learned in case it can save you a battle or two:

  1. Books help. Stories allow someone else to voice the intended message. We can shift to talking about what a “character” in the book would have, should have or could have done. And at a calmer time, we can also build on these examples with fun extension activities or catch phrases.
  2. Of course it’s more fun to win. But it may not only be about winning, it may also be about being a perfectionist. (Ah ha! In my case the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but somehow I missed that angle until I started researching and reading).
  3. Modeling the desired behavior in addition to talking about it is key too. We give them so many instructions over the course of any given day that sometimes all the words are just too much. Did you do your homework? Did you unpack your backpack? Make sure you brush your teeth, etc. It can all start to sound like more orders from the Dictator. Try to incorporate using actions (and fewer words) to convey or reinforce the same point.
  4. Fave resource: Big Life Journal.
    • It’s about having a “Growth Mindset”. Seeing challenges are opportunities, controlling what you can control, growing your brain, the power of yet (I am not good at that YET, I am not ready to invite anyone over for a game of Go Fish, YET). They have tons of printables and resources both free and paid.