Parenting is hard. One minute you have to drop kids off for a soccer game and the next minute you have to explain why eating chocolate for breakfast is not a good idea. Next, you have to encourage a kid to face the world with bravery as she peers suspiciously down at the pool when she is getting her first diving lesson. It’s overwhelming. Parents need structure to their day, they need to improvise constantly, and they have to do it all with a sense of adventure that keeps their kids engaged. It’s no easy task. Parents need help.
There are all kinds of parenting books and advice out there. Some work well and others are a waste of time. I’ve got a tool you probably haven’t considered using in your parenting arsenal. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s effective, and it’s something you can do with kids present or in those precious few hours you have to yourself. You’ll get the benefits either way. Obviously, I am talking about playing Dungeons & Dragons, one of the best parenting tools available.
You probably think I have a couple of screws loose in my toolbox but hear me out. Playing Dungeons & Dragons can help parents to improvise, learn to provide structure, and foster a sense of adventure.
Most Role-Playing Games call for improvisation. You have to think on your feet and if you want to survive, or be a good game master, you have to do it well. You can play the game where all you care about is the math. Sometimes you just want to know if you kill the monster or not. But, In Dungeons & Dragons whether you are a Dungeon Master or player, there will come a point when you have to make something up. As a player, you will imagine what your character looks like and is doing. As a DM you have to decide what is on the other side of the wall you described but never expected your players to try to climb over. It’s time to think on your feet. If you do that while playing Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll get better at doing it as a parent.
After you’ve improvised a thousand times for the fun of it when playing Dungeons & Dragons, it’ll be much easier to improvise a reason why Dad can stay up as late as he wants but kids have to go to bed at a reasonable time.
Improvisation is great. It can be useful in a ton of parenting situations. Do you know what’s even better? Having structure. Kids need it, parents need it, everything runs better when there are rules. Guess what Dungeons & Dragons has? Rules. Lots of them. You don’t have to know even close to all of them to play the game but knowing that they exist is important. And the more you play, the more you learn the rules. Being able to clearly state a rule and know the structure of what should happen is hugely important as a parent too.
It’s one thing to be able to tell a kid that they need to do their schoolwork so they can get good grades. It’s something else to be able to provide them with the structure needed so they can get the work done and not become stressed out about it.
Parenting is an adventure, hands down. There is no telling what’s around the next corner, what the next monster to slay might be. Why not experience a little adventure in a safe environment at a table with some friends? That way when you see the challenges in front of you as a parent, you know you have the courage to confront them. If not, you can think about what your character would do in the situation and do that instead. Either way, having a sense of adventure is going to help you as a parent. Your character is probably one filled with bravery and sometimes reckless abandon who will stop at nothing to achieve a goal. That’s something most of us can use more of in our lives (well, not the reckless abandon part maybe) and it might just come in handy. If a kid is struggling with a problem, make it a challenge. Tell them about the time your Half-Orc Monk went into a deadly situation thinking it was going to end for her but through careful and unexpected tactics she succeeded instead.
Most of the time we can all use a little more adventure in our lives. Or at least, a sense of adventure that is fun and exciting. You get that while playing Dungeons & Dragons. Remember that feeling the next time parenting feels overwhelming and think of it as your next big adventure instead.
Plus playing Dungeons & Dragons is downright fun! So, take some time today (or whenever you get a second to yourself since I know you are busy if you are a parent) and have some fun. Play some Dungeons & Dragons with your friends or your kids. If anyone asks you why you’re doing it, tell them the obvious. You’re doing it so you can become a better parent.
If you want to know why I think kids should play Dungeons & Dragons, take a look at this post: Kids Kill Monsters – Why Kids Should Role Play.
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