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How board games made me a better dad

Introduction to 'The Dad Game'

Monday, August 5, 2013 - 12:59 pm

Hi there! Come on in, grab a table, sit down, and make yourself at home. Yes, of course your kids can join you. After all, they're the whole reason we're here.

As a parent, you want a solid relationship with your kids, right? Build A bond that's strong and flexible, that connects and carries you through the tweens, teens, and into adulthood?

Yup, me too.

When I was a newly-minted dad, my parenting goals seemed simple: work with my wife to raise great kids, and build a closer, healthier relationship with them than I had with my own dad.

It turned out those to-do items were a lot harder than they sounded.

I had no clue what I was doing, so I screwed up a lot, especially when the kids entered their tween and teen years. Spending time together suddenly got harder. I can't count the number of times that “let's sit down and talk” ended with everybody angry and someone near tears (often me).

Around that time, I made a fascinating discovery: My kids and I almost never fought when we played board games together. Instead, we breezily talked and joked with each other. The only tears happened when we couldn't stop laughing together. Shocking, right?

Board games created a safe communication space for us. My kids and I could talk, interact, laugh, and enjoy each other without pain or frustration. Best of all, those benefits lasted well beyond the end of the game. The interactions we had wove into our relationships in the form of inside jokes, friendly jests, and shared memories. We connected at a whole new level.

Something amazing was happening, and it all started with with a struggling dad, a couple of frustrated kids, and some extraordinary board games. Of course, doing pretty much any activity with your children makes a great step toward building better connections, because focused family time is the water that makes relationships grow.

Even so, there's still something particularly special about the kind of parent and child interaction that a board game creates. Through this column, you and I get to explore the mysterious connection between parents, kids, communication, and board games. Believe me, there's a lot out there for us to talk about.

Join me in our quest to be better dads, moms, and parents. Let's go together and see what we can see along the way.

Are you in?

Fort Wayne resident John Kaufeld enjoys playing games and letting others know about them. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.