Parenting Hacks

We Forced Our Teenagers To Play Board Games For 2 Hours, And This Is What Happened

“You ready to do this?”

“Yeah. I mean. They can’t stay up there all day.”

Deep breaths. “Okay. I’ll call ‘em down.”

My husband and I held each other’s gaze a second longer, attempting to draw strength despite the mutual fright. We knew it would take a miracle for the next couple of hours to transpire without blood, sweat and tears, but neither of us seemed ready to commence.

“Okay.  Let’s do this.”

“GUYS! Come downstairs now…it’s game time!”

Total silence for the next two minutes…as if we were raising a house full of cenobite monks. Followed by me, trudging up the stairs like a brigadier general, tossing promises of hot chocolate and newly baked cookies across a united force field of dread ruminating from all four bedrooms.

“Guys. Did you hear me? Headsets off. We told you we’re doing board games at 2 o’clock. Now c’mon, power down.”

Que the deep baritone groans, like a symphony of hormonal wart hogs. Followed by the 2024 eye roll Olympics, and high-pitched whines mixed with weaponized inquiries…

 “Why can’t you just leave us alone?!”

 “UGH WHY are you forcing us to be with you?!”

Touching stuff.

In times like this, I’d like to say we normally remain vigilant and unwavering. After all, we’re talking a round of Monopoly here, not insisting they mine the coal fields. But as the early teen years have deepened closer to 15 (combined, we have 12, 14 and 15 year old boys…because Jesus likes adventure) we’ve admittedly allowed “forced” family time to dwindle to Sunday church, and nightly dinners.

But for whatever reason this weekend, the echoing shouts of Minecraft campaigns and shining blue light across their faces all day, just got to us more than normal. That’s it. We are doing something together, as a family, this weekend. The plan? Two consistent, uninterrupted hours of board games. Buckle. Up.

And still, even with all our resoluteness, I felt myself weaken at the uproarious, drama-filled objections, while instantly tempted by all the things I could accomplish instead torturing teenagers all afternoon. Tackling the laundry, taking the dog for a run, or how ‘bout just sitting in the hot tub for pure, testosterone-free peace. But this time, I was prepared. I brought my A game.

What transpired for the next two hours wasn’t exactly magical, but it was worth it. And to my relief and near shock, it was overall enjoyable. Sure, we had to tell the 14-year-old to put the phone down at least 20 times and threatened to tie down the 12-year-old after repeatedly making a run for it, but it was actually…fun.

Of course, they ran upstairs like cockroaches from a flame by the end of our time, but for two hours of Saturday afternoon bliss, our kids sat around the table, tolerating our physical proximity, rolling dice, strategizing wins, and even laughing with a high five a time or two.

So I guess my takeaway is this…the hardest part of forced family time is the initial start. The fierce blow back after announcing you’re all skiing, swimming, hiking, gaming or watching a movie together on whatever date/time is the hardest. Followed by the second round of mood explosions when it’s time for said activity. But after that, they really do end up having fun. I often forget that teenagers are still kids. Under all that Nike drip and Fortnite treasure lie childlike souls that really need to engage and feel connected to us.

Without getting too deep (refer to recent blogs for that) I feel like one of the lesser talked about but deeply felt consequences of smartphones and game consuls, isn’t the addictive behaviors and new neural pathways they create (however terrifying that might be) but also the complete deterioration and/or obliteration of family time. How can we expect a game of Clue, or a hike with the dog to compete with max level in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 involving all their equally addicted friends, or Face-timing their secret “non-girlfriend” from the bathroom?

But as hard as it is, and as EASY as it is to let the board games collect dust, just letting ‘em check out, this past weekend offered a renewed determination to do just the opposite. EVEN if the kids pretend not to have fun, there’s still an intangible good that happens during these tidbits of time.

Need an even more convincing reason to force family time? Think about how inconceivably easy these kids have it, nowadays. In our house, we really struggle with enacting chores and really any manual toil. We’re a blended family, so we often fall into the trap of rolling out the red carpet when the kids come back home, ready to offer favorite meals of choice, top five entertainment options for the weekend, and an on-call Uber XL experience (AKA us). Maaaaaybe they make their beds, take turns lawn-mowing, and take the dog out, but to be honest, that’s a stretch.

When I’m knee-shaking in the face of my angsty teenage mob, this is what I tell myself: If the WORST memory from childhood is being forced into communal play…the world shall still turn.  I can say with confidence I will NOT regret, nor feel guilty about implementing excessive family time, when I’m curled fetal position, sniffing their pillows someday when they leave for college.

So, for the fellow friends walking on eggshells past your teens’ rooms, ping ponging the decision to let e’m Snap their brains out, or remove the Wi-Fi fix for some family togetherness, do the hard thing.  It’s worth the pain. But for sure…hot tub/bubble bath later. Lord Jesus, do I need those bubbles. xo

For more on the raging lunacy of raising teens, check out my post, 6 Truths to Remember, When Army-Crawling Through the Teen Years.


Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist, author and contributor to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Huff Post, God TV, Beliefnet, Crosswalk and many more. When she's not burning dinner, daydreaming about the beach, she can be found on the trampoline with her copious amount of children, wishing she'd ordered the turbo shot.

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