Parenting Hack: Gamification


I don’t know if it’s a word but it should be.

One thing my wife and I learned with our kids is that there are two ways to get them to do something.

You can put your foot down and make them as the adult in the room. It’s necessary sometimes, but usually it’s very unpleasant.

Then there’s the times that you make it their idea.

Most parents know this and probably do it whenever they can but Sarah and I have learned to try to lean into this strategy even more.

One of the things that we have this love-hate relationship with is: the van DVD player. I mean when you first get it, it’s amazing. There’s just so many problems that disappear when that Disney castle fades into view on that screen that is basically the size of the Iphone 10.

But as soon as we got it, we immediately knew it would become a problem. Can I pose a hypothetical? How many times have you heard the entire audio of Dumbo played behind you on low quality speakers? How about Tarzan? Or Storks?

The first question we hear in the car is: “Can you start the movie?”

It got to the point that we weren’t basing our oil changes on miles but on number of times through Finding Nemo.

I’d like to say that we are good parents and wanted to slow the roll on movie watching because we want to “monitor screen time”. Honestly though, I was just tired of every conversation reminding me of a Disney movie quote.

Now as the adults we can just say “no movie”. And we did. And it stunk. There was crying. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. It was Gehena in a car seat.

Now obviously, before I get emails and comments and shares, all saying “this is what’s wrong with parenting nowadays”, sometimes parenting isn’t fun.

But all of this changed one day when we introduced: “the song game”.

It’s very technical and cutting edge. Everyone in the van takes turns picking songs they want to listen to. Including the kids.

Simple. Easy. But one day when we said “No movie”, and the crying began, we interrupted with “Let’s play the song game instead!”

It was a hit.

The other day we got in the van and the movie was already playing and the “song game” was requested! We were shocked. Since then we’ve found even simpler ways. We play the classic “I Spy”. It’s pretty fun and pretty easy for the adults. August always spys something ‘green’. (Hint: It’s always a tree). And we’ve also started playing the story game where every person in the car tells one sentence of a story and you make it up together. Every time we’ve found a different way to say no to movies and still say yes to fun, our kids do great.

That’s what fun does though.

Fun motivates people to try something new.

It can motivate your kids to listen, obey, follow, change their mind, lean in.

It can motivate your family to respect each other, help each other out, and encourage each other.

It can motivate a team to laugh, collaborate, and work together better.

So sure sometimes you have to be the adult or the person in charge who’s putting down their foot.

But sometimes you win in parenting, and in life, when you reach out a hand, inviting them in toward fun.

Photo by Pat Kwon on Unsplash

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