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The Table Game

I started a game at my house, and we play it at least once a month, at dinner. I didn’t really have a great name for it — it came to me in the spur of the moment — so we call it the Table Game. The rules are simple: You start with one person at the table. Everyone at the table has to say one nice thing or something they like about that person. You go around the table until everyone has said something. Then the person must say one thing they like about themselves. Everyone at the table has a turn.

I started this game because I realized I cannot receive a compliment. It doesn’t matter who gives it to me or what it’s about. I deflect. Always.

“I like your outfit today.”

“Oh, it’s just a dress I got for $5.”

“Great job on that website.”

“Oh, it was no big deal. I used a template, so I didn’t really do any of the work.”

“Dinner was excellent tonight, honey.”

“Well, the chicken was a little dry. Next time it will be better.”

No matter what it’s for, I just can’t take a compliment. What a horrible behavior to model for my kids. I don’t want them to be arrogant, but I also don’t want them to be uncomfortable with praise. More importantly, I don’t want them to be unable to praise themselves.

It’s a simple game, but sometimes it can be challenging. Someone will steal your perfect compliment. Everyone at the table is doing performance-based praise, so you try and come up with something more to the core of their being. You have kids ages 7, 5, and 2½ playing the game, so all the compliments involve farts and butts. Or, in my case, it gets to your turn to say something nice about yourself, and you struggle to think of what you’re proud of that doesn’t involve your children or making dinner.

That’s where I think the true teaching moment for the kids come from: seeing their parent(s) praising themselves and being comfortable in it. Hearing a grown-up say, “I like this about me” and mean it. Most of us praise our kids daily, so they hear us saying nice things about them all the time. But they may not hear us saying nice things about ourselves, or about our spouse or significant other, that often.

It’s also helped me stand up for myself. We’re a family of five, and I normally am the last person to go in the game, since the kids all like to go first. Sometimes, conversation will start to shift with the butt and fart jokes and I have to say, “Hey! I haven’t had my turn yet.” That’s a big deal for me. I used to let it pass — placating myself by noting that at least the kids are learning, or being secretly resentful that no one cared enough about me to want to give me a turn. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? No one cared enough, but that “no one” includes me. If I don’t care enough to say, “Hey! I deserve compliments too!” then I can’t resent when my turn passes by because I am the one who let it.

Another benefit of the game, coming from someone who fought with her brother for 98 percent of her childhood, is that it forces them to say nice things about each other. They’re learning to be kind to others, even when they get on each other’s nerves constantly. In truth, they won’t like everyone they meet and work, play or study with, but if they know how to find one nice thing about others, it can help them be a little kinder. A little more understanding.

So let's start shall we? My name is Kristin, and one thing I like about myself is that I came up with a great and simple game that helps boost my and my family’s knowledge of self-worth and love.

What about you?

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