News and Articles
20 February 2017
Over the last six months, I’ve become very aware of the latest craze: boys huddling together in corners of a room, lots of chatting, occasionally tears, and sometimes arguments. They’re comparing, collecting, and swapping their Match Attax cards.
Match Attax are cards with football players on them. A packet of new cards contains a random selection, so there’s always the hope of finding a star player from a favourite team – one to hang on to with a growing collection – and some that will enable useful swaps with friends. The players are scored on a few attributes, so children can play Top Trumps-type games with them too.
I decided I needed to find out more, so I started talking to the boys about what they were doing. They were very excited to have someone ask them questions about their hobby, and told me all about it. I asked them what was good about the cards and also what they didn’t like. They love collecting all the teams, and getting special cards either in new packs or by swapping cards with friends. They told me that some schools have banned the cards because children were stealing some, and sometimes there were arguments.
Developing social skills
As I watch the boys swap their cards, I am impressed with the social skills they’re developing to handle this interaction. The boys don’t rush in to swaps, but take time to think about it before deciding if it’s a good exchange. The person offering a swap has to handle a level of disappointment if the friend decides not to do a deal - but they seem OK with this.
Junior school-age children have a very strong sense of fairness, and can become cross when rules are broken, and it doesn’t seem fair. Paul Miller, in his book The Praying Life, talks about the importance of children learning to deal with low-level suffering and disappointment while they are still under our roof. This will help them as they prepare for life outside the home. We can pray for our kids in these times, and help them deal with the disappointment.
I now have my own Match Attax collection (to the despair of my husband!), thanks to the generosity of these boys who want to include me. I’m looking forward to my ‘Match Attax advisors’ helping me swap my cards, and even been invited to a Match Attax party!
Nicola Musson suggests ways of using Match Attax in discipling children
Like any new craze, Match Attax can distract children from things their parents would prefer them to focus on. The importance of collecting can encourage materialism and resentment. But these are temptations that will not lessen as our children grow up. They may not want to collect cards all their lives, but they will always face pressure to keep up with their peers and collect a multitude of things they don’t really need!
A way to disciple our children
So perhaps interests like Match Attax could be seen as a way to disciple our children. We could start by taking an interest in their collection. Ask questions to find out what they like about the cards, and what they find frustrating. If you can get a conversation going, you may get a chance to share your thoughts on the game too.
There are a few angles we might try to help children bring Jesus into this area of their lives. If you want to discuss how best to invest our time and resources, you could try reading the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1–15) together. The rich man thinks his manager is wasting his money. So the manager uses what he has to get friends, just in case he loses his job! Jesus says we should ‘use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves’ (verse 9). How would that affect the way you viewed your money and possessions? How could it affect how your child views their Match Attax cards?
A common frustration with the game is that card swaps often seem unfair. This can be very disappointing for children and is a good opportunity to chat about friendship and dealing with negative emotions. You might also talk about unfair swaps in the context of Jesus’s death for us. You could read Mark 15:6–15 together. Barabbas deserved death, as all people do, but Jesus swapped places with him – and us. This is the ultimate unfair swap – Jesus took our death and gave us his life in return!
You could also look at 2 Corinthians 8:9, considering the riches that Jesus gave up, and the riches that we have because of him. It might be helpful to share your own experiences of disappointment, and explain how knowing what Jesus has done for you and treasuring him helps you to put disappointments into perspective.
Pray that we and our children will treasure Jesus more and more.