Playful Parenting

Stacey Conner essays

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A game before bedtime became a tradition in our house a year ago after our youngest son learned to get himself ready for bed. It began as a bribe–if they could all get undressed, put on pajamas, and brush their teeth with no fighting or nonsense, then we would play one game.

We started with Uno and quickly progressed to Rummy Que, Go Fish, Apples to Apples, and team Chess. Just as quickly, the family game digressed into vicious competition, arguing, and accusations, stirred by taunting and spiced with blaming and crying. Children refused to finishgames they were losing. Children screamed and kicked. Children threw temper tantrums.

In a fury after a few nasty ends to family time while I parented solo for the night, I doled out a swift consequence. I declared a moratorium on games before bed.

A week flashed past and I missed a few bed times. Matt handled them expertly, directing the routine we both know by heart. I rolled my eyes at him at the end of the week when I came home to an intense game of Spinners. So much for my short-lived moratorium.

“They aren’t allowed to play games at bed time,” I pronounced, annoyed, “there’s too much celebrating from the winner and crying from the loser.”

Matt shook his head. “No, they’re good, aren’t you? Garrett already lost. And what does the loser get?”

“A group hug!” they shrieked.

Garrett shouted and fled for the stairs, closely pursued by the pack of huggers with Matt in their midst. Winning and losing was forgotten in the melee. They treed Garrett on the bunk bed ladder and pulled him to floor where they delivered his punishment with fits of giggles.

A far better consequence than the one I thought to deliver.

Matt won this parenting round. Fortunately, that leaves me with the group hug.

Has your partner ever handled your kids in a really creative way?

About the Author

Stacey Conner

Stacey Conner loves chai tea lattes, bedtime and being at home with her children. She hates the cold, fingerpaints and play dough. She writes about life with four children, adoption, trans-racial parenting and other issues big and small at

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