Category Archives: Play At Home

Apologizing and Forgiveness

canstockphoto17001941The neighbor boys were over to play: a 12-year-old and his 9-year-old nephew, an 11-year-old and his 8-year-old brother, and a 7-year-old. My boys, 7 and 5 years-old, were having a blast. While listening in on their play, I heard one friend make a boy-tragic error. It was something like: “That sword is way too short.” Without a moment’s notice, my son shot back: “That’s STUPID. It’s not a sword. It’s a KNIFE.”

I didn’t care about the sword/knife differentiation. However, I did care about the fact that my son called his neighbor stupid. While I let many of these situations work themselves out in the normal give and take of neighborhood friendships, for some reason I felt like saying something this time.

Me: “Braden, you just called your friend stupid. I’d like you to apologize.”

Braden: “I’m sorry Tavis. You’re not stupid.”

This much I had predicted. It was what happened next that caught my attention.

Tavis: “You’re forgiven.”

I didn’t know Tavis’ parents very well at this point. When I heard him say that, I decided I wanted to get to know them more. Kids don’t just say “you’re forgiven” if they haven’t had a little bit of instruction.

I had a talk with Tavis’ dad on the playground near our house a few weeks later. During our conversation, I brought up this story. He said, “Yeah, our family has a lot of emotion. One rule we have is that it’s always okay to apologize and forgive each other.”

I loved that! I loved it for two reasons. First, it recognized that normal families have all sorts of emotion. Second, because it recognized that emotions can be messy and family members need to forgive each other.

As a side advantage, I think it also means that the boys in that family will hopefully be more inclined to forgive my boys when they do things that need forgiving (which my boys do all the time).

Final shot:

  • Emotions in families are normal.
  • We all need to have grace (forgive) each other’s emotional mistakes.
  • Parents should model apologizing and forgiveness to children by asking for forgiveness when parents make emotional mistakes.
  • Parents should teach children to apologize and forgive and allow them to make the mistakes that all children make when learning these skills (think of all the mistakes you have made).

Star Wars Snowflakes

DSC_0009Had a great time with Braden this afternoon making snowflakes for the window while we watched football. For the cool “Star Wars” snowflake designs, check out Anthony Herrera Designs.


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Tips for Boys: The Art of Getting Out

little league fanWhen I played as a kid, getting out was assumed, at least for me. When I started working with children, cooperative games became the focus. I understand the benefits of noncompetitive cooperative games (heck, I teach workshops about them), and last night, I was also reminded of the incredible benefits of getting out.

My seven-year-old son Braden had a Cub Scouts Pack meeting last night. There were about 35 boys present, ages 6-10. The activity for the evening was basketball. We started with 4 stations; at one station the boys played H-O-R-S-E.

I won’t go into detail about how to play HORSE. If you aren’t familiar, look it up. The main point for this post is that in the game of HORSE, you get out after missing 5 shots (one for each letter in the word HORSE). Like his dad, Braden isn’t basketball star. Even though there are public hoops that we can see from our house, we’ve never gone over to practice our jump shots. Given my lack of fatherly encouragement and coaching, I wasn’t surprised when most of the B-mans shots sailed under, over, beside and past the hoop without touching it.

The other Tiger Cubs weren’t much better, so he didn’t show too much disappointment in his performance until he got out. Now, there are many different ways I could have handled this. I’ve seen many different techniques used to “soften the blow” of getting out in a game. Here are some of the most common.

  1. Don’t keep track. In this one, you play HORSE, but don’t keep track of the letters. Nobody gets out.
  2. Keep track, but let the players continue to shoot after they get out. Their shots don’t count, but they aren’t “left out.”
  3. Pick a different word. Instead of HORSE, go through the entire alphabet. Then people usually get tired of playing before anyone gets out.

Since it was my own son I was dealing with, I didn’t choose any of those. After he missed his 5th shot, I told him he was out. He looked at me with a nervous question mark on his face as if to say: What does that mean? I said, “You missed 5 shots, so you’re out of the game.“

I knew this would be hard for him to deal with. It was his first Pack Meeting. He was playing with boys that he barely knew. He hadn’t made any shots, and now he was the first one out. He was embarrassed, and Dad wasn’t helping. Tears came to his eyes. His lips quivered, and he made them tight and sucked them in to keep his emotion from showing. He didn’t want to cry in front of the other boys, so he scooted up to me and stood stiff as a board with his face tucked between my arm and my body.

I let him stand there for a few seconds and squeezed his shoulder. Then I said, “I know it’s disappointing. I used to get out every time when I played horse.” After another few seconds I let him in on they key to getting out gracefully. I leaned down so I could see his face and said, “One of the best things you can do right now is to give one of the other guys a compliment. It will make you feel better. When you’re ready, go over there and do it.” It took him about two seconds to blink away the tears and turn back to the group. As he called out, “Nice shot, Ben!” he ran back over with a smile enjoyed the rest of the activity.

For boys, the art of getting out is learning that there’s no shame in it. It’s not a rejection; it’s part of the game.

Tips for helping boys get out with style:

  • Give compliments. When you compliment the play of others, you’re always in the game.
  • Welcome others. More players will get out. Welcome them with a high five (or whatever is cool now) and say something like, “Nice try” or “Close one.”
  • Make a plan. Think about what you will try different next time. Watch how the other players are keeping themselves in the game.
  • Try again. Learning from mistakes and failures is fun, challenging, and the key to success.

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Power of Play

Play is one of my main topics, and this is a great series of photos and quotes (not to mention that it share the title of my best workshop).

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Play At Home


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