Parenting – It’s In The Cards

Guest Post by Barbara from Corner on Character


Let’s just say I’ve played a lot of cards this summer. Last night’s game of Canasta got me to thinking; how has my parenting journey been connected to cards? Let’s see if this train of thought is on track today.


Flash cards:  Before my two teenagers were even toddling, I got their first box of flash cards as a hand-me-down from my sister. Have flashcards, will travel! We took those cards everywhere. I remember that a coach at a high school basketball game actually ridiculed me because there my kids were at a sporting event working on their words and concepts with flash cards. Why? There’s a lot to be said for early literacy, and learning with flash cards is one of the tools that we used very during their formative years to build, stretch and challenge their intellect. Our mantra:  Enrich their vocabularies, expand their horizons. Tap into their visual and tactile senses and watch them grow by leaps and bounds.


Greeting cards:  I don’t know when the last time that I’ve spent money on a birthday card would be. Don’t get me wrong; I could spend hours in the Hallmark aisle admiring the clever sentiments and funny sayings. I used to secretly want to work for them writing greeting cards one day. But here’s what we’ve done instead. We’ve turned our craft center into a Hallmark store and encouraged our children to make their own cards. So before every birthday, you’ll find my kids at the table with their pencils and markers, glue and glitter (gasp!) creating a hand-crafted treasure. It’s a win-win situation, really, because the personal touch truly means so much more to both the giver and the receiver!


Attendance cards:  This one’s kind of funny, really, because our children kind of fight over who gets to fill out the attendance card at church on Sunday morning. It got so bad for a time that I actually considered making out a schedule and posting it on the calendar! And though I’m not saying that you have to go to church to function as a family, I am suggesting that you belong to some group and that you gather periodically to commune with like-minded people. Maybe it’s a book club or a bowling league, maybe it’s the Scouts or a softball team. How about a card club? There’s truth to the ad campaign that claims that “membership has its privileges.” As I was growing up, we had the good fortune of being in 4-H together; what organization or group could you join as a family?


Report cards:  Like it or not, our children will come home from school with report cards. These are meant to be an assessment of how they’re progressing with their academic skills and knowledge not as a benchmark for punishment or reward. I’ve told this story before:  An academic over-achiever, I worked really hard to please my parents and bring home all As in elementary school. I’ll never forget that night in 6th grade when my father returned from parent-teacher conferences and called me into the kitchen. Quite serious, he sternly inquired about the two Bs on my report card. I can still feel my heart start to race. I reassured him that there must be some mistake, then asked him, “In what?” That’s when he pointed to the front and said, “your name!” Then he chuckled. Well, I was not laughing, out loud or silently. With too much stress on performance, we’d lost sight of the real reason for report cards – to help keep track of how your children are doing, to celebrate their successes and offer assistance for their struggles. Be the liaison between your child’s school and him or her and communicate regularly to ensure your child’s personal best. When my daughter asks, “What if my best isn’t good enough?” I answer, “It will be.”


Thank-You Cards:  My favorite Chick-Fil-A kids’ meal treat over the years (besides their yummy chicken nuggets, of course) was back in 1999 when they gave out step-by-step instructions for writing a thank-you note along with a blank note card so that the kids could practice their new skill. Genius! Since caring is thinking with our hearts, what better way to teach gratitude than to help kids learn to follow up a kindness with a hand-written note of appreciation. I’m afraid that life in a fast-food era doesn’t slow down long enough to allow us to smell the proverbial roses or stop long enough so we can take the time to simply say thanks. I love this quote by author Douglas Wood:  We don’t give thanks because we’re happy; we’re happy because we give thanks. Teach your children how to show gratitude; I think you’ll be thankful that you did.


Playing Cards:  So now we’re back to the beginning, that game of Canasta that got me thinking. I used to cherish the times when my grandma Larsen would come for a stay and we’d play Canasta long into the night, so I asked my mom this summer to teach my son to play. Since then, we’ve played cards almost every night. The family that plays together stays together, right? Let’s be honest; sometimes I think that cards could very well be something that divides rather than unifies and yet, in addition to the math skills that we’re sharpening, there are so many real-life lessons to be learned with a simple deck of playing cards; cooperation, fairness, patience, acceptance, tolerance, integrity to name a few.


Is parenting sometimes like building a house of cards? It can be. But with the right glue, those cards will be firmly placed in such a way that there’s no telling how many decks you’ll need. Canasta anyone?


  1. I loved playing cards with my family! Definitely made a difference in helping bring us together and teach us fair treatment and getting along.

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