I recently played the board game Monopoly with our three children while my husband was at work one evening. It was the first time our 13-year-old son had ever played the board game. Side note—why do I feel like this is a mom fail? I set the game up after a particularly tumultuous afternoon of sibling rivalry between the aforementioned son and his 10-year-old sister. Thinking back, I’m not sure why I chose the most conflict-prone board game known to man to play at that particular time. However, the insight that I gained into my children’s personalities and the dynamics of their relationships was well worth the risk of an upended game board.
Right at the start, my 13-year-old son asked how long we would be playing the game. He had heard that Monopoly can take “forever” and informed me that we needed to come up with an exit strategy. His suggestions included playing for a pre-determined amount of time (30 minutes, was his suggestion—um, no, Son), or playing until someone had a monopoly (what’s the point of ending there and not reaping the benefits of said monopoly?).
His concern about time was indicative of the phase of life he is in right now. Time is valuable. He has a certain set of activities that he has to fit into his weekend. And by “activities” I mean Fortnite battles with his friends. Having a sense of belonging and peer relationships are important to middle schoolers. He is developing an identity beyond our family unit. Mindful of this, we agreed that we would play for at least one hour, then take a photo of the game board and put our money and acquired properties in sandwich baggies to continue where we left off on another day.
Our 10-year-old daughter spent her first three times around the game board carefully weighing out (translation: overthinking) the benefits and pitfalls of purchasing properties while passing “Go” and collecting her $200 each time. When she finally did buy a piece of property, she second-guessed and fretted over the decision. Meanwhile, she was growing frustrated that she kept landing on “Chance” or “Community Chest” squares and being required to pay a tax, pay double the dice amount to a utility owned by a sibling, or go to jail.
Her personality and phase of development right now is centered on independent decision-making. She is acquiring the freedom to make more decisions (e.g. picking out her clothes at the store) and that can be scary when Mama and Daddy have largely made decisions for her. Being mindful of this, at her turn I would reassure her that she was not losing any real money, it was just a game, and to have fun with it. She eventually relaxed and was even disappointed when we had reached the end of our playing time for the night.
The Carefree Player
Our 7-year-old daughter wanted to buy Every. Single. Property. Oh, it’s only $280 and I only have $600 left? I’ll buy it! For her, getting to buy things was exciting. But, she was also the most generous player in the game. She would offer to sell her properties to a sibling for the Monopoly equivalent of pennies or not charge rent when they landed on her railroads if it would help the other sibling and keep them playing the game.
She is in the phase of her development where she feels fun should be had by all those around her and she wants to be the source. She is also the peacemaker among her siblings. Being mindful of this, I complimented her for her generosity, but also encouraged her to look out for herself as well; losing all of her money wouldn’t be super fun for her.
I’m happy to report that we ended up playing for nearly two hours, with no tears and the board remained intact! We took photos of the board so that we can continue the game next weekend. We giggled at jail visits and collectively groaned at having to pay luxury taxes. Board games are not only fun, but they can also be a way for families to learn about and grow together.