How a Card Game Transformed My Family in a Matter of Minutes

by Kristen King

Create peace, connect, and teach emotional intelligence.When I decided to back the Generation Mindful Kickstarter campaign for PeaceMakers, I had no idea that this choice would change the course of my family in an instant. This might sound like hyperbole, but I’m being completely serious. This card game has been life-changing. Let me explain.

The essential premise of PeaceMakers is that connection is more effective than punishment — and for children to have success and joy in life, it takes more than academics. It takes emotional intelligence. Why is emotional intelligence so important?

Emotional intelligence helps kids manage big emotions, connect with others, form healthy relationships, and more.

As our children’s social-emotional skills improve, so do their abilities to express themselves, and practice empathy, compromise, listen, cooperate and more.

Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit, though. It’s easy to get caught up in the places we have to be and the stuff we have to do when schedules are packed and phones are chiming and emails are coming in in a constant deluge of demands and Stuff Other People Need From Us.

Originally I was attracted to PeaceMakers because I thought it might help me manage the constant power struggles with my stubborn boy, Emmett, who is terrifyingly exactly like me and oh-my-God-Mom-I-am-so-sorry-for-my-entire-childhood-thank-you-for-not-murdering-me-in-a-fit-of-sass-induced-rage. No wonder this kid is stubborn and immovable and fights everything that is good for him. Where could be possibly have learned that? (Fortunately for all of us, Miles generally takes after his father.)

I didn’t realize how much help I needed with emotional intelligence until started trying to teach it to my kids. And with this one, despite that I love this kid fiercely, I was running out of ideas. Everything felt like a fight, and I could see it taking a toll on our whole family. Anger breeds anger. Force breeds force. Yelling breeds yelling. We had fallen into this cycle of constant combat and it was exhausting and demoralizing for all of us. He was sullen and angry, I was sullen and angry, everyone was sullen and angry. ENOUGH.

Enter PeaceMakers. We cracked the box open on a particularly challenging day, which also happened to be a day I had taken off of work to recover from a major project that had had me working 60- to 80-hour weeks for the month prior. (See also: Things that contribute to family stress.) Emmett missed the first card because Jesse had sent him to his room for his own safety after a particularly frustrating meltdown. Talk about irony. That was when I realized that we had gotten so caught up in correction that we’d completely forgotten about connection.

That night, we started a new family tradition. We pull a random card out of the PeaceMakers deck at bedtime and at wake-up time, and we “do the card” as a family. (After a week or so, Miles announced that kids pull the cards in the morning and grown-ups pull the cards at night because it wasn’t fair for only the boys to get to pick cards.) Whoever chooses it peeks at the card, announces “Ooooo, this is a really good one!” and flips it around for everyone to see. After we’ve sufficiently oohed and ahhed, Jesse or I read the card aloud and everyone else repeats it. Then we talk about the content.

Ever since the first bedtime card, the kids have begged — begged — for the game at virtually every opportunity. They wake up asking for it and plead every morning to do an extra card. Here are some of our favorites, and some of the things the boys said in response.

"I'm thankful for you, Mommy, for working so hard for our family."

“I’m thankful for you, Mommy, for working so hard for our family.”

"If I'm mad I can think to be happy and then I can be happy?"

“If I’m mad I can think to be happy and then I can be happy?”

I ask for what I want and need.

“If I want a hug I can ask you for it!”

"Riding my bike makes me feel powerful and free."

“Riding my bike makes me feel powerful and free.”

I am a leader.

“I can be a leader by showing the other kids how to do stuff.”

PeaceMakers has become the highlight of our morning and evening every day. We haven’t missed a single day except when the boys had a sleepover at their grandma’s house. Our entire family has become more empathetic, more connected, more patient, and more engaged. The power struggles are gone. We’re just plain happier. Things are easier. And it’s thanks to 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night. We have had exactly one tantrum since we started making PeaceMakers a daily practice, and it lasted approximately 30 seconds. So basically it’s a miracle.

But it’s not a miracle. This is what happens when you put connection over correction, when you connect before you do anything else and reconnect at the end of the day. I knew connection mattered, but I didn’t know how to make it part of the fabric of our family. Thanks, PeaceMakers, for giving us the nudge we needed to be the family we’ve always wanted to be.

I love PeaceMakers so much I became an affiliate right away! So as you can probably guess, this post contains affiliate links. Gotta fund my coffee and planner habits somehow, amirite? ;) See Amateur Parenting’s PR & Advertising policies, which also discusses affiliate compensation.

Added May 26, 2016

A few quick clarifications since this post has become very popular! In case you’re wondering:

  • I purchased PeaceMakers myself via the Kickstarter campaign – they were  not provided as part of a review request. I paid full price. Which I NEVER do — that’s how much I had to have these cards!
  • This post was not commissioned or sponsored by Generation Mindful. They were really thrilled when I shared it with them, but the idea to do it was all my own. It is not paid advertising. 
  • I was pretty thrilled when Gen:M shared this post through their social media channels and on their website! I hope you’ll share it too, or better yet write your own post about PeaceMakers! The more people who learn about this product, the more families will start creating their own special memories and traditions.
  • The only compensation I get from this post is if someone purchases PeaceMakers through my affiliate link. Which I hope you do, because this product is awesome or else I wouldn’t be recommending it. ;) If you love it as much as I do, become an affiliate! Details are on the Gen:M website.
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Kristen King (aka, Mommy-in-Training) is a red-headed, glasses-wearing, wine-drinking, perpetually undercaffeinated writer and twin mom from the Tampa metro area, and founder of AmateurParenting.com. She and her husband, Jesse (aka, Daddy-in-Training) have fraternal boys born in December 2011, two dogs, and a cat. They are Independent Herbalife Distributors and Wellness Coaches. Meet the whole AmateurParenting.com team on our About page.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bri May 24, 2016 at 4:14 am

I love this post do much.

And I needed it. So, thanks for that!

I’m constantly in awe of your self-awareness and desire to correct the issues you find instead of trying to rationalize them. That is something I struggle with.

I’m trying to decide if Roree is old enough for something like this. Your boys’ answers were brilliant!

I suppose it doesn’t hurt to start.

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2 Kristen King May 24, 2016 at 1:54 pm

The great thing about these cards is that they give you a starting point and you can make it more complex or simpler to meet your needs that day. For the ones the boys are confused by or can’t really get, we will tell them how we think they embody that concept or ways we try to do it ourselves. I think you’ll be surprised how much they can grasp though. We definitely have been!

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