"Why do you treat everything like a game?" Those are the words I heard a 30 something man angrily YELL at his young son, as he went to wash his hands in a public bathroom.
You see, the son, who obviously had been taught to wash his hands after using the toilet, was getting reprimanded because he had made "hand washing" fun. And, much to the dismay of his father, it was taking the young lad longer (and making a bit more of a mess) than Dad had wanted it to. Besides, according to the Dad's point of view, it was obvious that hand washing was just something you did - not something you enjoyed doing.
What do you think that does to the desire for the son to wash his hands next time?
Will he wash now that it can't be fun as well as he would have, when it was a game to him?
I doubt it.
In fact, in my opinion, this father, completely unknowingly, is teaching his son a very powerful, yet damaging lesson. The lesson being that there are things that you have to do in life that you simply have to do. You shouldn't have fun doing them - you should just do them, and be miserable like me (and my Dad before me).
Today, it was washing his hands. Next week, it will be homework or mowing the lawn. And eventually it will be work, marriage and even life itself.
The gift of youth is that we look to make everything a game. We look to have fun in every thing we do - and it comes out most obviously, when parents make their kids do something they don't want them to do.
In fact, with infants, we even teach them HOW to do this ourselves. Don't believe me? Have you ever pretended the fork was an airplane, flying in circles and delivering the mouthful of peas (that you child won't eat on his own) to his or her mouth. Do you not try to make eating foods you don't like into a game?
But somehow, somewhere, we have were taught that life isn't supposed to be fun or a game - it's supposed to be serious and no fun at all. And although we might not intend to pass this outlook on to our kids, by the time they reach adolescence, most kids have given up on making things they don't like fun, and only look at those chores as work.
But is that what we should be teaching to our kids or even to ourselves?
I hope not.
If you ask me, if people just spent a little bit of their time at work and in their life figuring out how to have fun doing what they have to do - making it a game, two things would happen:
1. They would smile a lot more and actually look forward to the things they used to dread doing.
2. Their productivity would increase dramatically - probably in the area of 50-100% simply because we always try harder in games that we like than those we don't.
So I ask you . . .
Why don't YOU treat everything like a game?