No-one HAS to play a game.
If someone wants someone to play and the other person doesn’t want to – they can offer a deal: “if you play X with me for X minutes, then I will play Y with you for X minutes”
BEFORE the game is started, the players go over the rules, ESPECIALLY THE rules about TRICKY BITS that caused a fight in the past.
Everyone has to use at least one KIND GAME PLAYING SENTENCE while playing the game.
KIND GAME PLAYING SENTENCES include:
- “Good shot”
- “Have another go”
- “You go first”
- “It doesn’t matter”
- “Bad luck”
- Or anything that makes another player feel good.
All players know that problems happen in games. This is okay. When a problem comes up, no-one is allowed to say “cheater” or “cheated”. Instead they use a soft voice and say:
- “I think……………(say the problem)” OR
- “Can you please…………..(say what they want)” OR
- “Let’s take a break” OR
- “Let’s ask Mum/Dad for help” OR
- “No big deal, let's just keep playing”
If kids feel frustrated in a game they say: “I need a five minute time out” and they do something else for a very little while. Players then come back to the game and try again.
Screaming, yelling, hitting or hurting are never allowed.
At the end of the game, the losing player(s) say “CONGRATULATIONS” to the winner. The winning player(s) say “Good Game” to the losing player(s).
The Winner always packs up.
Special extra notes for Mums and Dads.
Kids will fight during game play. It's totally normal. But they will fight LESS over time, if we teach them, specifically and slowly - how to play. Print these rules out. Go over them with the kids. Then get them to play a game, following these rules, while you watch them for ten minutes. While you are watching do TWO things.
- Coach them ("can you remember some kind sentences to say", "now's the time to say "let's take a break", say it softly please, "remember what do you do BEFORE you start the game", "let's pretend someone breaks a rule - what will you do?")
- Praise them ("wow, great kind sentence", "nice work on using a calm voice, I'm so impressed", "You're such a good sport to remember to say congratulations", "hey you guys solved that problem so maturely all on your own").
Then walk away. Do it again a few days later, and then again a few days later. Then again the next week.
Before you know it, the fights over games will disappear, and you will have taught them vital life skills they will appreciate forever.
Well, in theory.
In practice, what will happen is that the fights will happen a tiny bit less often. And you'll get a few extra minutes each week to have an extra cup of tea in peace.
Probably still worth it.
Our online resource Calm Kid Central has helpful videos and activity sheets for children on the skills we need to make and keep friends. There is also a video and tip sheet for parent/carers on coaching our kids in these skills. To find out more, click below.