When you’re playing a game with your kids, do you let them win?
I have been mulling this over in my mind a fair bit recently. I often let my kids win when we play games. When we race, I always come puffing in about 3 seconds after they do. They love this. They especially love it when I deliberately play the fool, calling over my shoulder, “You’re so far behind me I can’t even see you!” And then I turn, see them, and say, “How on earth did you get there so fast?”
It seems only fair to handicap myself, at least a little, in play. Not to be too boastful, but I could beat both of my kids at most games with both hands tied behind my back. I am a fully-grown adult. Playing no-holds-barred “Go Fish” against a 5-year-old would really be kind of mean and totally no fun. My 5-year-old is still learning the names of all the cards, for Pete’s sake.
If I were in this race, I could totally win
But how far is reasonable to go in the name of leveling the playing field? As my kids get older, they will need to learn the rules of fair play. They will need to learn to gracefully accept defeat. And I hope they will find that winning is actually more fun when you feel that you’ve earned the victory. I don’t want to let my kids win so consistently and for so long that they come to see winning as the point of playing games with others.
Of course, there are many, many people who won’t let my kids win. Their peers, for one thing. Other adults, too. I wonder if it’s my job as their mother to teach them to lose gracefully, or if it’s my job as a mother to build them up at home, as the world outside tries to tear them down? Is it possible that losing isn’t my lesson to teach – or at least, not on my timetable? There may very well come a day when my kids tire of my transparent efforts to not beat them.
Puzzles are good, because there are no winners or losers
I suspect, that like lots of things in parenting, there is no right answer. I also suspect that it probably doesn’t matter all that much in the end. I doubt that winning or losing at Candyland will be the thing that makes or breaks them in the long run. And so, if everyone enjoys it, then I can probably just go ahead and let them win.
Except, here’s the thing – I don’t really enjoy it. I like to win. I like to win maybe a little too much. While forcing myself to lose is probably good for me, I can’t honestly say that everyone is enjoying our current games. But I am the adult, here, so I can suck it up in the name of fun and not having to listen to the whining when I smoke everyone in the footrace. At least most of the time I can, anyway.
Clearly, I need help. I need input. Do you let your kids win? Did you let them win up until a certain age? Or do you avoid games that involve winners and losers altogether? I’d really love some input!