This may sound apocryphal, but it's not always the right time to play games.
Everyone goes through spikes and dips of mood, patience and energy during the course of a day. Scientists call this a circadian rhythm, and it appears everywhere in biology.
The circadian rhythm explains why you feel creatively sharp in the morning, have trouble focusing in the late afternoon, and start yawning as the sun goes down. It's a built-in part of our bodies, although we all experience it at different times, and that's going to affect your family's game-playing routine.
Before grabbing the kids at 8:47 p.m. in hope of slipping in a quick round of the family's favorite strategy game, take a moment for a mood check.
Start with yourself. Are you ready to be patient and calm if one of the kids takes a long time to make a move in the game? Can you endure a run of bad luck without being snarky? Do you have enough energy to smile and keep the game moving forward?
What about your significant other, if he or she plans to be part of the game as well? What's the reading there?
Finally - and most importantly - check the kids. Your kids are, well, kids, so they're still learning how to deal with their unique rhythms.
As the adult, it's your responsibility to suck it up a little bit and make some magic happen for your kids, even if you don't feel 100 percent (or even 60-70 percent). That means you need to help them proactively by using your elite parenting skills.
Next, think about the time. Is it a school night or a weekend? Were the kids particularly active during the day or do they have energy left? Do they usually lose concentration after a particular hour?
When my kids were in their tweens and teens, we could play pretty much any kind of game if we started by 7 p.m. If we didn't get organized until 8 p.m., then we needed something with light strategy and fast play.
Of course, I didn't always remember my own guidelines, which led to some memorably bad evenings. We'd get 45 minutes into a game, but then the kids couldn't focus (or, worse, one could but the other couldn't) and I found myself dangerously short on patience. It was a bad combination all the way around.
If you see that happening to your family, just pause the game and come back to it the next day. You can say something like this: “I think we're too tired to make this fun right now, and I really want to have fun with you. How about pausing for now and picking it up again tomorrow evening?”
As a parent, your kids look to you for guidance and help. They know they're tired, but sometimes they don't want to give up. Giving them permission to feel what they feel instead of pressing on like a soldier slogging through the snow is important. You're giving them space to be themselves, and you're respecting them as people.
That may seem like a small thing right now, but it's bigger than you think. Really.