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Dear TinySprouts®: My Child Keeps on Getting Upset Playing Games!

“If a child struggles with getting upset at various aspects of games: such as the tile they wanted in Kingdomino getting taken, getting a Sorry card played on them, or even just losing, will playing games with them help them learn, make it worse for other aspects of their life, or have no effect and they'll just grow out of it when they grow out of it?"

Playing board games is a great way to expose your child to different challenges in life. Boardgame playing allows children to not only learn the social constructs of our society (via rules of the game) but also emotional awareness and behavior regulation (via circumstances encountered during the game).

When a child gets upset during a game, help him/her identify the emotions they’re experiencing.

“Are you feeling frustrated because you kept on getting the cards you don’t want?”

“Do you feel impatient when it’s other people’s turn, and you can’t wait for your turn?”

Helping the child “label” the emotion is the first step in calming his/her nerves. It also allows the child to see that the adult is empathetic with what emotional state he/she is going through.

In the middle of the game playing, be sure to model positive behaviors that demonstrate how to deal with disappointments and frustrations.

“Oh, man! I wish my dice had thrown a 4 rather than a 3. Oh well. Maybe next time.”

“Wow, it’s too bad I didn’t get that piece this time, or else I could have (...). You get what you get, and don’t throw a fit, right?”

You may want to even go a step further to “grant their fantasy” by saying:

“Gosh, if you had gotten that card, you would have won, huh! Bummer!”

"Oh, nuts! Just one more step! That was so close!"

Of course, there might be times when a child just melts down in the middle of the game.

Remind him/her that while it’s natural to feel upset, we cannot allow destructive behaviors like, throwing game pieces, flipping the game board over, etc.

“I know how upset you are right now. You can go get a cold lemonade to cool down for a minute, but I can’t have you mess up the whole board that we’ve spent so long to build. When you’re ready to come back, you can help me set up the game.”

Playing games also promote good sportsmanship. At the end of each game, remember to shake hands and congratulate the winner. Winner, in turn, practice saying:

“Good game. You did well. No one wins all the time” to the opponents.

Our upcoming cooperative board game Empower Empathy will target these very issues. Our tool kit includes a guidebook for parents as well as a board game to teach and practice this very important life skill.

Be sure to sign up to receive a discount when Empower Empathy launches!

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