New Year’s Eve, and I’m playing Chutes and Ladders with Liam before he goes to bed. He got the game as a Christmas gift from my mother. The game is entertaining, it is the version with Marvel comic book characters, so it is a favorite of Liam’s already.

During the game, I’m ahead of Liam by about five rows. I’m on square 81 when Liam suggests we switch pieces. I tell him no. He then says he doesn’t want to play anymore. I encourage him to not quit because you never know what can happen. He asks if we can switch pieces again, and again I tell him no. He’s a bit down, but he acquiesces to my request to not give up.

This is something Jana and I have worked with him on when playing games. He’ll want to quit if he is near losing. We tell him to keep playing. If he does lose, we tell him to be a good sport about it.

So, Liam and I keep playing. I get on the top row. Liam has made progress, but is still a few rows behind me. I hit a chute halfway across the row and fall back two rows. I’m only two rows ahead of Liam now. I’m trying to show him that the gap is closed and remind him that this is why you shouldn’t give up and quit. “You never know what can happen.”

We’re taking turns and moving ahead on the board. We keep missing the ladders and the chutes. I’m back on the top row at square 91. Liam spins. His piece is moved to square 80, which has a ladder to the winning square. Liam wins the game.

He is excited that he has won the game. I share in the joy initially, but then I take some time to point out to him that he won the game because he didn’t give up. For about two minutes I say variations of the following:

  • You didn’t quit and you won the game.
  • You didn’t give up and you won the game.
  • You felt like not playing, but you played till the end and you won.
While I’m saying the same thing in different ways, hoping something sticks with Liam, he is playing with the board and the pieces. I’m talking and talking and talking. I really want this stick with Liam that he came back to win the game after being so far behind. Finally, Liam calmly says to me:
“Dad, I want you to stop talking”.
I laughed. And, I stopped talking.
I wanted Liam to grasp the point I was trying to make, but I was being a bit overbearing in trying to make that point. It was also a good reminder to me that even when kids don’t show it, they are listening. I’m often surprised by what the boys do soak up. I forgot that in my zeal to have a teachable moment with Liam. It was me that ended up having the teachable moment.

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