One thing I have learned in my five short years of parenting is that the phases that kids have are temporary. This is good AND bad. We are often cruising along in our happy little family life and things are going so well, that, I take for granted how well-behaved and sweet my kids are being. During these phases, I feel like I could take my kids to the nicest restaurants, and they would sit like angels quietly eating their dinner, ask them to share their most precious toys at a play date, and they would willingly hand them over with a smile. These are the times that parenting is blissful and rewarding and I feel like Super-Mom!
However, just as I relax into this amazing phase, the universe shifts and my adorable children are seemingly replaced by other versions of themselves that whine incessantly. They fight over the toys that they ignored just seconds before, but now MUST HAVE because the other has it, tantrum at the slightest request and hatefully tell me that I am a “Bad Mom” – ouch!
During these less easy, breezy times as a parent, I find parenting a daunting task that leaves me completely drained at the end of the day. Parenting truly feels like a job, but it is one that never seems to end. There are no sick days or vacation days or even lunch breaks.
When parenting gets this hairy I know that it is time for an intervention, a shift in focus for all of us. Sometimes having my own intervention is enough (self talk, lots of wine, a little pampering), but in serious cases, like the one that most recently occured in our house. A more invasive intervention is required for improvement to result. I know that it is time to shift my attention from all the things about my kids, that, are driving me mad, to all the things about them, that I adore. Shifting this focus is not an easy task, but I know that beneath the whining, baby-talking, and tantruming are two kids who I love more than the world. I know that I just have to find them!
In the past, I have found that even the simplest star chart (where the kids earn stars or stickers for positive behavior) can help drag our family out of an unhappy phase. This time I wanted to change things up a little bit, so, I decided to stray away from the typical star chart and create HAPPYLAND!
HappyLand is my own takeoff on Candyland, with a few small modifications. The rules are simple. Each time the kids are doing something positive (e.g. sharing, helping, cleaning up, listening) they get to move ahead one space on our game board. In Candyland, players may have to go back on the board if they draw a card a space behind them. (Remember how bummed you were as a kid when you were almost to Candyland and then you drew that pesky lollipop!?). In Happyland there are no cards to draw, however, my kids may also be required to move back a space as a negative consequence for behavior. When the kids get to the end of the trail, they hop into Congratulations! Here they get to pick an activity of their choice for us to do as a family. They might choose for us to take a trip down to the Strand to ride bikes, enjoy a visit to Adventureplex or Sky Zone or another fun adventure of their choosing. While it would be easlier to give them a tangible prize for their accomplishments (e.g. a toy), I decided that doing something special as a family would be more rewarding for all of us.
Making HappyLand was simple. The smiles on my kids’ faces when they first laid eyes on our new games, was priceless. To make this game I used:
- 2 blank pieces of paper taped together