My Godson, Elijah, is totally adorable. I mean, TOTALLY ADORABLE. His grin warms my heart and his little voice is like music to my ears. I love spending time with him. I love it when he puts his little hand in mine. I love it when he tells me “I love you.” I sometimes love playing card with him.

I say sometimes, because Elijah struggles a great deal when he does not win (as most kids do).

This past weekend I was visiting Elijah’s family in Georgia and we love to play cards when we are together. We play a game that is very fast paced and can be overwhelming. The scoring is brutal and you could very easily have someone with a score of 80 points and someone else with a score of -80 (negative) points. We try to include the kids in the game as much as possible, but this past weekend Elijah was really having a hard time because he wasn’t “winning” – he never was able to call the game because he played all his cards.

At one point, Elijah threw his cards down and stormed away from the table. As we watched him leave the three of us as adults looked at each other and had a brief little discussion. It was basically us admitting to the fact that we have not done a very good job of pre-teaching and coaching him. We devised a strategy and then tried to get Elijah back into the game. Luckily he agreed to come back to the table.

Before he got to the table, the three adults and his two brothers (who are also quite young, but have been playing this game for several years) talked about how we wanted Elijah to get a “win” under his belt. We reminded his brothers about things that we did to help them learn the game and to develop a love for it.

When ‘Lijah came to the table before we dealt the cards we discussed “what should you do if someone beats you to a play?” “What should you do if someone else plays out all their cards before you?” We even practiced saying “good game” and “nice play.”

Throughout the next round of play we offered lots of verbal praise whenever ‘Lijah made a good move; we offered him prompts about plays he could make if he hadn’t seen them yet; and, we made sure that Elijah was able to call the game because he had played all his cards.

It was an entirely different vibe for that round. That smile of his was plastered on his face and he was giving us high fives at the end of the game.

It just reminds me of how we need to help people practice choosing the behavior that is best and most appropriate. It took me back to Haim Ginott’s quote about how we create the climate and make the weather. We as adults missed the mark initially, but once we put our minds to it, we were back on track. And now I’m very excited for Elijah to really develop those skills for future play!

Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty Supervisor