Written by Lance Green
A common question I get from Dads is: “ Should I let my child win at games?” The simple answer to that is “Sometimes”. You may look at you little one, those uncoordinated hands and legs, those big eyes and undeveloped minds and feel like you are obligated to let them win. You don’t want to damage their psyche right? Will beating them at games harm their egos and give them insecurities they carry with them for life? Games can be life lessons as well as fun times spent with the kids.
Teamwork and sportsmanship
When kids are small, around the toddler age, games are not really about winning and losing. The focus is on sharing and taking turns. This is the time for them to learn to play well with others. There is no real competitiveness yet. Focus the games on spending time together and having fun. When they get a little older and a skill element is introduced in to the games, things start becoming a little more competitive. This usually happens around preschool age. This is when you focus on playing by the rules.
Playing by the rules
Once you get to the competitive aspect of games and there is winning and losing involved, things change a little. Kids need to learn that there are rules to the games as well as how they play the games. They need to enjoy the thrill of winning but also to be able to accept defeat well. At this point, you may want to let them win now and then so that you can lead by example. Show them good sportsmanship and how to accept a loss with dignity.
Stack the deck
Unless your child is amazing at a game and you aren’t, generally you will beat them every time without trying too hard. You need to show them how to be a good winner. You can make adjustments to allow them to win and explain that the handicap is due to your size and age and that when they are on equal grounds, they won’t get an advantage. You do not want to make it obvious that you are allowing the win as this can be just as humiliating as a bad loss. A good way to make sure a child wins sometimes is to play games that involve luck instead of skill, such as dice games. A fair win in games like snakes and ladders is a wonderful way to have your child enjoy a victory and it is a teaching moment for you.
My child is a sore loser
When kids are younger it can be hard for them to articulate their feelings. Losing can lead to a fit of rage if they don’t know how to cope with it. Talk to them about it. Calm them down and get them to say how they are feeling. You can then explain that games are meant to be fun. Compliment them on where they did something well during the game. You are the example to them of handling winning and losing. Tell them stories of your own failures. Explain that not everyone is alike and we are all good and bad at different things. Teaching a child to cope with losing will build a strong character trait.
My child is a bad winner
Sometimes a lesson in humility is called for. You may need to play games that give the child an awareness of how it feels to lose. Talk to them about losing and how it makes them feel. Knowing how it feels to lose develops empathy for opponents and may mitigate bad behaviour when winning.
It is important that your child learns to win well and lose well. Losing helps build character and empathy. It helps the child deal with adverse situations in a more controlled way. They learn to express themselves better and handle disappointment, which is guaranteed at some point in life. Help build a strong team player with good ethics, who plays by the rules. A child that knows that it is not all about winning or losing but about how you play the game.