Another Day, Another Lesson, Another Regret

November 10, 2013

Yesterday and today, Robert, his dad, and I played The Allowance Game.  As our pawns moved along the board, Robert was spending and earning money but did not feel very happy about that. Robert’s objective was clearly to move his pawn back to the starting place and end the game so he  seemed irritated that we continued to go around the board a few times. There were many things to learn during the game.

1. Learning the meaning of the word, “receive”.  Robert encountered this word, just a few minutes before the game while reading a text about how much rain different kinds of forests RECEIVE each year.  I felt obligated to “translate” it as “get”, but I was not sure if he understood this word in such context.  During the game, however, he quickly figured out, that when he stops on the field that says “RECEIVE $1, he can get one dollar.

2. Yesterday, Robert was not sure when he should return his money to the bank and when he should pay another player for buying lemonade from him/her. Today, I explained that to Robert before the game.  Since, however, his pawn never stopped on Lemonade Stand, he did not have an opportunity to demonstrate his understanding.

3.The game allowed Robert to practice counting small amount of money such as $1.35 or $0.80 and soon he had no problem with that. He had, however, problems
when change was needed.  For instance, he had to return $1.80, but he had only two one dollar bills.  Since I didn’t believe he could decide that he needed $.20 back, I helped him without really explaining that operation.

4. Mainly, however, Robert was learning to ENJOY playing board game.  His emotions oscillated from annoyance and impatience to contentment and glee. There were moments he clearly seemed happy playing the game with us.

I introduced a few games to him when he was 5, 6, or 7 years old:  Hi Ho Cherry-O, Connect Four, Potato Head.  In the private school he was attending at that time, he learned to take turns while playing  Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land. Robert followed, with more or less prompting, the rules of the games, but he clearly did not enjoy playing.  For him they were not more fun than discrete trials.  To increase “fun factor” I bought Elefun and Penguin Pile Up.  Since, however, the only people he played those games with were member of his family, who consider it obligation and not an entertainment. So despite butterflies flying out of the elephant’s trunk, and penguins sliding down the iceberg, the “fun factor”never materialized.  I was disheartened, and put the games away. A few years later we tried Operation, Trouble, and Guess Who.  Robert reluctantly complied.  so, the games returned to the shelf. As he did with memory games and puzzles. During one of the conferences on verbal behavior, I heard about Cariboo. Robert seemed engaged in playing that game and didn’t mind that he had to talk while playing. Still, there was no sign of amusement, or satisfaction. Since the game seemed  easy for Robert,  I bought another game by Cranium, Balloon Lagoon. Mistake.  There were too many games in this one.  It was hard for him (and me) to constantly switch from demands of different sections of the game board.No matter what game I introduced it was always a chore for Robert and never an entertainment. I had the same impression yesterday.  Not today, though.  Today, I observed short but multiple sparkles of joy of playing the game with us.

With those sparks of budding happiness came a realization, that over last 18 years, I (and everybody else) overemphasized rigid rules of the game and underestimate the company of other players.