Letting Your Kids Win? Teaching Winning and Losing—Metalheaddoc

 

My lil’ boy is about to turn 8. When we do something competitive, like running in the backyard, I let him win. I feel the bitter taste of defeat is an acquired, grown-up taste that he doesn’t need to get from Daddy. But as he gets older, how long do I let him win?

I want to teach him to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. I also don’t want him thinking Daddy is a slowpoke who can’t do anything. How do you all go about teaching your yoots about winning and losing?

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  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    How About: You let him win up until the first time he uses a dirty trick. At that point, it’s pretty clear he thinks he can play for keeps.

    • #1
  2. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    I compete with them.  Even when they were little.  The day my daughter finally beat me in a ski race was one of the high points of her life.  She’ll never let me live that one down… ;)

    And that’s great.  The best gift you can give them is losing in a fair competition.  Especially if they have to work hard for it. 

    Kids are capable of a lot more than we think in modern times, and can accomplish it a lot sooner.  Re-read Benjamin Franklin’s biography for a reminder.

    • #2
  3. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Don’t let him always win.  Beat him one time out of ten, or so.

    There was one older scout (16-17) in my son’s troop who was famous (among the adults) for losing to the younger scouts.  They always seemed to beat him by just a step or two.  They would run their hearts out because he always won against the older scouts, and it was a big thing to beat him. (Eventually they would figure out there was no Santa Clause, but by then they were First Class Scouts, and realize why he had done what he was doing.)

    • #3
  4. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    I used to let my 10-year-old son win when we shot hoops and played “HORSE”, give him an extra chance to make the shot etc.   That lasted for a few months, during which time he practiced his butt off every day.  Now he beats me almost every time.  I don’t think there’s a set formula, depends on your kid’s temperament and other factors.  Is he self-deprecating?  Let him win a few times, big deal.  Is he on the spoiled side?  Teach him how to lose.

    • #4
  5. user_966256 Member
    user_966256
    @BobThompson

    I agree that there is no set formula, but I also think we need to be careful about this. Much of what I see in today’s social environment seems to be based on some kind of theory that competitiveness is a negative. I don’t endorse going very far with the notion of eight-year olds versus eight-year olds and all are declared to have won the competition or medals for coming in eighth in the swim meet. Not exactly the same, but look at all the punishment being meted out for those using words or ideas that offend some others. Will we diminish the drive to succeed by removing all the obstacles (excuses) for failure? I didn’t grow up in an environment such as this and I don’t think it is positive for growth and success in life. I guess that makes me conservative.

    • #5
  6. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    I don’t have kids, however my sister and brother-in-law have three and we all like to play games. Having them all as opponents means we couldn’t let them all win, and they were all pretty competitive. However, we do get opportunities to teach them lessons about losing. One of my favorites:

    You don’t quit the game just because you’re losing. Keep playing, and make your opponent pay for every inch of victory.

    A corollary that applies mostly to our family:

    Complaining loudly while you’re losing is a valid game activity, however.

    I suspect not all our lessons are good ones.

    • #6
  7. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    We are dealing with this with Maedel, who is six,l right now. We have started playing Monopoly regularly and just a few weeks ago she was a very poor loser- pouting, shouting, crying, throwing her money, etc. Vrouwe and I did not stand for it, but treated any sign of poor losing as an automatic loss in the game. Her behavior has improved dramatically now that she sees it does not pay to be a poor loser. Her skill improved, too. Never let her get the light blue properties…..

    • #7
  8. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Hartmann von Aue: We are dealing with this with Maedel, who is six,l right now. We have started playing Monopoly regularly and just a few weeks ago she was a very poor loser- pouting, shouting, crying, throwing her money, etc.

    That’s a terrible game to play with a 6-year-old. Young children do not work well with wars of attrition.

    • #8
  9. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    There is something so precious about watching all your children play Monopoly together… and something so awful about watching the youngest cry when she goes bankrupt and is driven from the game by the experienced and heartless tycoons. There is no easy way to teach people how to lose, other than experience.
    I remember baby-sitting a boy who I found a bit spoiled. He always wanted to race me, and when I let him win, he would lord it over me and prance around. So I stopped letting him win, and he soon stopped wanting to race.
    I am competitive, but I don’t always have to win. I want to do my best, and that is what I hope my children will learn as well. If you are only playing to win, you probably aren’t having much fun along the way…

    • #9
  10. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Misthiocracy:

    Hartmann von Aue: We are dealing with this with Maedel, who is six,l right now. We have started playing Monopoly regularly and just a few weeks ago she was a very poor loser- pouting, shouting, crying, throwing her money, etc.

    That’s a terrible game to play with a 6-year-old. Young children do not work well with wars of attrition.

     Actually we’ve found it an excellent way to teach her practical applications of math, planning ahead, developing resources… all principles she has transferred to her front yard Tattoo Stand and Gummy Bear Emporium. 

    • #10
  11. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    I can’t stress enough that the right answer varies from child to child.

    I was always a competitive loser – I wanted my competition to give me their best, all the time, even though it meant I would always lose. I felt cheated if I won. On the other hand, my younger brother would be shattered if he lost, and needed to win from time to time to boost his confidence.

    My parents understood this; I didn’t, for a long time, even after I had kids. It just seemed strange and counterintuitive to me. So it took me a while to learn to lose to my older daughter from time to time, or she would quickly lose interest in the game.

    But then it turned out that my younger daughter doesn’t need any of that. She doesn’t mind losing, as long as the game is competitive. She’s more like me that way.

    So again: It depends very much on the child’s individual temperament.

    • #11
  12. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Metalheaddoc:

    I feel the bitter taste of defeat is an acquired, grown-up taste that he doesn’t need to get from Daddy.

    Speaking as someone who was raised by very busy perfectionists, who either didn’t notice my failures or came down like a ton of bricks on me (and often for relatively small errors), introducing your kids to failure in bite-sized portions is about the most important thing you can do for them.

    You want them to fail regularly in little ways that they can tell aren’t the end of the world, and you want to make sure they don’t feel worthless when they do fail. Then they get used to the idea that failure is a normal, surmountable part of life. I don’t know how, exactly, to accomplish this goal. Only that it’s a goal worth accomplishing.

    After all, how much griping do we hear about Millennials’ inability to handle failure and criticism? (and I’m a Millennial, just barely). Millennials aren’t some sort of weird mutants, innately different from every previous generation. They lack the discipline to handle failure in large part because they haven’t been taught it.

    • #12
  13. user_966256 Member
    user_966256
    @BobThompson

    Most of the time, teaching the young how to lose with grace results in learning how to win as well as how to lose.

    • #13
  14. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    My 5 -yo son is hyper-competitive.  Sore loser and ugly winner.

    I pick my spots.  Before bed he wins.  If we have plenty of time he’ll lose 3 games then I let him win the 4th.  Always ends on a high note for my sanity.

    Luckily, his primary interest is baseball.  Many little failures sandwiching sweet successes.  The game has done a lot to help him balance his emotions and channel his competitive energy positively.  Fun to watch.

    • #14
  15. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    I can’t remember that I ever let my boys win.

    Of course, the bill for their therapy is now costing me an arm and a leg.

    Just kidding.

    We primarily compete in non-physical activity (i.e. board games).  While I never let them win, I do teach them how they can improve.  And yes, when they beat Dad (which happens more and more often as they’ve grown), it’s always a major celebration.

    They know that when they beat Dad, it’s a real accomplishment.

    • #15
  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    What about games like Go, where there are standard handicaps the good players can apply to make the game more fun for poorer players?

    Or at least that’s what my husband says. He’s a Go nut, but he hasn’t yet gotten around to teaching me.

    • #16
  17. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: He’s a Go nut, but he hasn’t yet gotten around to teaching me.

     You must play with his head. Download a computer version of the game, learn to play, and only then ask him to teach you. See his reaction to your “beginner’s luck”.

    • #17
  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Son of Spengler:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: He’s a Go nut, but he hasn’t yet gotten around to teaching me.

    You must play with his head. Download a computer version of the game, learn to play, and only then ask him to teach you. See his reaction to your “beginner’s luck”.

    Unfortunately in this one instance (but fortunately overall, I’m sure), I’m lousy at keeping secrets from my husband.

    • #18
  19. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.

    I don’t compete with my kids.

    • #19
  20. user_998621 Member
    user_998621
    @Liz

    “Did I ever let you girls win at stuff — you know, card games, for example?”  I just asked my 8 year-old twins.
    “No, it’s much more fun winning by yourself,” answered one.  “Yeah, if someone lets you win, it’s not like winning, it’s like cheating,” added the other.

    I don’t think I ever let my girls win at games (except maybe when they were very small, but I can’t remember it and neither can they).  I do try to choose activities that give them a chance of beating me or their dad.  Simple card games such as Go Fish, checkers, etc.; sometimes I win, sometimes one of them wins, and we are all having a good time.  If we’re running races I’ll give them a head start, but I still try to run fast.  When we play Memory, they crush me every time, and I am always trying!  I think, in the end, we all like it better this way, and my girls are good winners and good losers, which makes me proud.

    • #20
  21. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I’m 52 and my kids are 7 and 4, so when it comes to physical stuff (foot races, games in the back yard), I figure soon enough they’ll be beating me legitimately (and probably won’t be giving me too many breaks), so I don’t cut them too much slack.  I do give head-starts in races, but then I run flat out and try to at least catch up.

    I’ve put a lot of effort into losing pure-luck games like Candy Land.  It’s amazing what you can get away with right under their noses.

    • #21

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