A Dad and His Daughter

Jason (Tinypocket) writes…

Hey there. I really appreciate the idea behind what you are doing on the Dice Tower. I have a question for you as I’m not sure who else to turn to. I have an 11 year old daughter who is very interested in the games I bring to the table during my bi-weekly gaming sessions hosted at my house. This is actually going to turn into three questions:

  1. I’m asking all of my attendees to try to keep this as adult as possible. A lot of these guys and gals that come over have 3 and 4 year olds who aren’t interested in board games. This needs to be a relaxed atmosphere but one without constant interruptions as well. I don’t see how it’s really fair to invite my own child to participate while at the same time asking others to come alone with no kids. How exactly do i handle this situation? My daughter is interested in playing but is it fair to allow her to play?
  2. On the rare occasion I DO allow my daughter to sit at the table, she is incredibly excited. The most recent time was letting her play Ticket to Ride (her favorite) and Settlers of Catan (something new for her). Both times she quickly lost interest. I had to constantly bring her attention back to the table when it was her turn. She looked bored and out of sync with the goings on with the game. In the settlers game, she would try many times to play illegal moves just moments after I tell the group the same exact rule (we have a lot of new people show up so, yes,…Settlers is explained every time it is brought to the table). This drags the game on and I get the impression that others might be getting a tad annoyed when my daughter does this.
  3. Because of #1 and #2, I’m reluctant to teach my daughter all the other games in my possession. I honestly believe she wants to sit at the gaming table with me because I’m doing something she wants to be a part of. She loves doing the things I do…play World of Warcraft, play board games, etc., but when she has time to do these things on her own she does not. I’m unsure if i should even ask her to play board games at all anymore. should I?

I would appreciate any feedback. I’m getting anxious and do not entirely know how to handle this situation. Thanks guys for giving me someone to at least talk to about this problem I’m having.

Let me first say that your problem is actually a very good one. I know a number of parents who wished their kids were into the hobbies they loved. The fact that your child is showing genuine interest in wanting to spend time with you is awesome. I’d hang on to that for as long as possible.

But beneath the loving exterior, there does lies an issue you should address and it is a delicate one. To be honest, I have asked a number of people regarding their take on how best to respond and the answers were all over the board, so to speak. And while there were no universal solutions offered, there was one universal concern that all the parents I spoke to had. This concern was for the parent and the child. What follows is a summary of what I discussed with others. Hopefully, there is something here that will help you go forward.

Setting Expectations

Regarding question 1, if it’s your party and you are organizing it, you have every right to establish the rules and guidelines of what is expected. However, you will not be a very popular guy if you emphatically tell your friends that their children are not welcome and then invite your daughter to play with you. This is especially true if you tell your friends you do not wish children at the table because you want to establish an adult atmosphere. So your initial thoughts on the subject are correct. It is not fair to your friends and guests. Here are a few options.

  1. Enforce the Adult Only Policy
    Pretty self explanatory but also one that is going to possibly make your daughter feel left out. But let me make it absolutely clear that it is perfectly OK for a parent to have their own time. As a parent, we are on the clock 24/7. Taking a few hours for “you time” is not only appropriate, but an absolute necessity if you want to keep yourself mentally well balanced. If your daughter does have very strong feelings about joining you at the table, then allow her to do so, but as an observer only. I am guessing one or two things will happen. She will either loose interest and leave the table or become increasingly interested and want to learn the game being played with you the next day.
  2. Rotate Game Nights
    Another option is to have game nights at different houses during the week and month. This would allow your friends who have kids to introduce them to the game table on their own terms, but only one set of kids per night. This would allow you to invite your child to the game table when you are playing at your home and your friends to invite theirs when at their homes.
  3. Kids Night
    Since everyone has kids, why not throw a party once a month and just have a kids night? Start early, have dinner with everyone, and play some games with the kids. Then, when the games are done, have them all go play outside or in another room while the parents socialize and play some games around the table. Combine this with a rotating game night or the enforcement policy, and I believe you’ll be in a better place then you feel you are in now.

The Learning and Interest Curve

Regarding question 2, your child sounds like every other child I have had the pleasure and frustration to play games with at one time or another. There is a  reason why most “kids games” have bright colors, easy rules, and can be played in under 20 minutes. These games are designed to grab interest and end quickly. A child’s mind has little discipline and to expect them to keep track of complex game systems and rules, while simultaneously continue to be energized and engaged, is going to be a waste of time and a source of stress.

Start small and grow. Find out what games interest her and what she wants to play. Introduce new games when you think it’s appropriate and adjust accordingly to her level of focus and ability. When you find a game you know your daughter loves to play and plays it well, that is the game you should play at the game table with her and other adults.

Do yourself and your daughter a favor and don’t play a game you know the adults will like, but not necessarily your child. Or, the inverse, a game the adults enjoy, but your daughter is having a hard time following or has little interest in.

It's not about game time, it's about quality time.

Making a Connection

Regarding question 3, it is perfectly OK to feel frustrated, but be fair to yourself and your daughter. You have years of experience to lean on when you play games. Your daughter does not. If you want her to play a big game like The World of Warcraft: The Board Game, which will take up to 8 hours to complete, you must start small. Again, think of all the experience you have had.

In truth, your daughter is very lucky because she has a dad who has a significant amount of experience to help her learn how to play games. But do start easy and work your way up. Crawl, walk, run, so to speak. By doing so, you will teach new skills, enforce previously learned skills, and motivate her to play more challenging games.

But this is based on the assumption that your daughter really does enjoy games. I have no doubt they hold her interest to a certain point, but we must also consider the possibility that she is only interested because you are interested in them. As you stated, she does not pursue the hobby on her own. From an outsider’s point-of-view, this tells me she is playing because it allows her to play with you. I can tell you from personal experience that my kids love board games and video games because their dad does, too. I am aware of this and use it to further strengthen my relationship with my children, but I want them to enjoy the hobby because they like it, not because I do. It is for this reason I introduce games to them and then focus on doing what they want to do, too, which is usually wrestle on the ground, play with robots, or go outside and play.

The point is, board games might be a medium from which your daughter is reaching out to you. She might not have any real interest of her own in the hobby yet, but we can certainly tell she has a genuine interest in you, her father.

I and others would suggest you continue to play games with your daughter, but also ask her what she wants to do. If she keeps telling you she wants to play games, suggest that you go take a walk, go to the playground, to the Mall, or just go out to a coffee shop and share a brownie. It’s about quality time and your daughter knows she can get that by playing games with you, but your daughter has interests of her own. You have shared your passion for the hobby with her, now take the time to learn more about her passions.

Again, from personal experience, I can tell you I now know more about the Bakugan game than I possibly care to all thanks to my two oldest boys. They love to play games with me, but I highly encourage them to explore the world around them and find new and interesting things to learn about and become interested in. When they started to be interested in Bakugan, so did I. Not because I cared one flip for the game or the toy, but because it gave me an opportunity to engage my kids on a different level and allowed them to teach me. It has been a blast.

In Conclusion…

Worry less, laugh more. It is not about game time, it’s about quality time. You’ll find the balance you are looking for if you adjust your expectations, communicate your intentions with your daughter and your friends regarding the game nights, and explore new and exciting interests with your daughter.

Take what you can from what is here and I certainly hope it provides you with some insights that you might be able to use and incorporate in your own life. And if any reader should have anything to add, we highly encourage them to do so in the comments section below.

Best of luck to you and your daughter. What a wonderful journey you two have in front of you. You are very lucky that you can take it together.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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