I’ve Been Served

By Michael

It seemed like a twofer.

The girls wanted their ears pierced. I wanted somebody to play chess with me. In the convoluted maelstrom that is my imagination, I saw a great opportunity.

Learn to play chess, I said. If you can beat me, you can get your ears pierced.

Pure genius. The girls would learn to love the game, I’d gain chess buddies for life, they would have the opportunity to earn a privilege, I would show a willingness to accede to their barbaric fetish of self-mutilation (did I mention I don’t like piercings?) and we’d all have a fun story to tell our friends and family. Win-win, I thought (foolishly).

So each girl, at her appropriate age, took up the challenge of beating dad at chess. And each girl required far less time than I anticipated to win one game. Checkmate, dad. Let’s go to the mall.

Neither ever won a second game against me. That’s the sorta good news. The bad news is that neither ever played with me again. The whole plan turned into more of a win-win for them and a lose-lose for me.

Both of them tell the same story. I made chess into a chore, a labor, a burden they were required to bear in order to achieve their goal. They didn’t learn to enjoy the game; rather, they learned to endure it. They dug in and focused and kept their eyes on the prize and they succeeded.

Along the way, maybe, they developed some added discipline and commitment to achievement. Or, more likely, they already had that discipline, which they applied in overrunning my defenses. What they didn’t have, and still don’t have, is an enjoyment of the game.

And so, another lesson learned. Kids like fun. If you want them to like something, make it fun. And if you make it the opposite of fun, don’t expect them to like it.

Hmmm….how do I convince them it’s fun to clean out the basement?

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

7 Responses to I’ve Been Served
  1. Stephanie
    February 9, 2010 | 1:03 pm

    I use money for everything. Can’t find the baby’s other shoe? I offer $1 to the 1st person to find it and miraculously it appears within about a minute.

    But I’d like to get more creative than money. It’s getting too expensive.


  2. Valerie
    February 9, 2010 | 1:06 pm

    I end up using money too, but I want to change that. Great post! Nice to read from a dad’s perspective!

  3. Marie
    February 9, 2010 | 1:39 pm

    Larry Cohen wrote an awesome book called Playful Parenting. It has lots of fun ideas. Sometimes though you just buckle down and do things you don’t want to.
    Great post!

  4. Megan
    February 9, 2010 | 3:03 pm

    Time to dust off your copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer! They’ll be paintin’ fences in no time.

  5. Kelly
    February 10, 2010 | 12:15 am

    How to make it fun. It’s easy when they are toddlers. “Let’s sing the clean up song!” I think it gets harder each year they get older.

    Let us know if you find The Perfect Solution. (Surely, you’re close to a black belt by now.)

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