It can break our hearts when our kids say, “I’m an idiot.” The Idiot, Horrible, Stupid Game is a fun game designed to turn that situation upside down! Its one of the many games that can be found in our upcoming The Forever Book, a guide for growing our kids relational intelligence.
Idiot. Horrible. Stupid. Ah, the joys of kid talk. All of these words are tumbling out of our children’s mouths, and it can be difficult to hear. When our kids call someone stupid, we quickly tell them that its not right to use those words. “Apologize,” we say. “We don’t use those words in our house,” we say.
But what gets to us most is when our child says, “I’m horrible at this” or “I’m stupid”. On one level, they may be feeling frustrated with themselves, but on another, they also know how to push our buttons. I’ve seen the same frustrated echoes in myself, and they can make me very reactive. Telling my son he’s not horrible isn’t enough. It never feels satisfying for either of us.
Its a stuck moment. And what do we try to remember to do in stuck moments? Play.
Our playful solution? We took those loaded words and made them into abbreviations for very long compliments.
Honestly – Out of this world – Remarkably – Right – In – Being – Lovely and – Enjoyable
The fact is, we parents take ourselves too seriously.
Always setting ourselves up in opposition to things that we disapprove of can be a trap. It can give those things power over us. Instead, let’s be playful with them.
The next time my son says he’s horrible and I start up on the “Honestly-Out of this world-Remarkably-Right in-Being-Lovely and-Enjoyable” and I’m tripping over the words and getting them out of order and doing it wrong and so on, and nine times out of ten, things shift to laughter.
My son starts picking other terrible words, stupid, idiot, and so on, and trying to create sentences from their letters. See what your son or daughter can do with POOPYHEAD. You’d be surprised.
Words are what we make of them.
The power of words and how we choose to re-purpose and reinterpret them is a huge lesson. Its the beginning of learning how to re-frame events or ideas. It ties in with a central story we can tell about ourselves. “We play with things!”
More than once, since we started playing this game, our six year old son, days later, used a word like “idiot” with a very serious expression. And then he would get that glint in his eye, go to the fridge where we pasted up the reconstructed meaning of the word, and read it out, laughing. He would say, “Remember? Remember, we did this?”
Whether or not to employ these kinds of games depends heavily on context. If the mood just isn’t right, if something more serious has just occurred, if there isn’t time or the location won’t allow for it, that’s okay. As parents, we continually have to do a 360 degree check in and see if our plan for the moment is a good fit. We are already doing this dozens of times every hour of every single day.
But when we choose to play instead of instruct, it is part of the relationship building process that grows connection, conversation and self reflection for our children.