Should I Let My Kid Beat Me at Games?


When it comes to playing games -- especially board games -- with toddlers, I've always followed C3-PO's advice to R2-D2 as they played space chess or whatever that game was on the Millennium Falcon: Let the Wookiee win.

No, a 3-year-old can't tear your arms out of their sockets like a furry brute from Kashyyyk, but with the right meltdown, they can inflict far worse damage on your day and your psyche.

But as time passed I began to wonder if kids from a young age need to know what it feels like to lose (in the long run we all taste it too much anyway, so no worries there). Everyone ought to be able to keep their composure, to pat the winner on the back, to regroup and try again. And eventually I get sick of getting my Battleship sunk.

But of course you let the kid win. What kind of sick competitive freak would do their best to shove a loss down a toddler's throat? (I'll bet Michael Jordan did.)

Even games that are pretty much pure luck like Candyland and Sorry, the kid can make choices so dumb it can actually be hard to make yourself lose, and it takes special extra effort. Poke around the Internets and you'll find parents are all over the place on this, but most think losing has its place.

At Kori Rodley Irons, whose great-grandmother constantly beat her at marbles when she was young, says that letting your child have the occasional small victory at Chutes and Ladders can help the power balance, since come mealtime and bedtime they have to let you win.

Gina Roberts-Grey at has a long, thoughtful take on the topic that has this cautionary quote from a soccer coach:

You can tell if a child's parents shield them from losing, they are deeply disappointed if they aren't first or lose a game. They don't handle the loss as well as other kids.

Do you really want that to be your kid? Maybe you should kick it past them and dunk over them a little bit more.

One suggestion: I know the first time I decided, "screw it, I'm sick of losing, for once she's going to be the one who's Sorry" I just decided to make a huge show of excitement when I won. I ran up and down the stairs hooting and whooping, I opened the windows and shouted "I won!" out into the street, hugged everyone in the house and popped a sparkling water bottle like it was champagne. The kid just giggled and enjoyed it. She could tell I was proud to have beaten her, like it was a big accomplishment. Yes, this may have been a terrible lesson on ungracious winning for the long haul, but who thinks about tomorrow?

Of course there's always games like Duck, Duck, Goose and tag that don't really have winners, where pure enjoyment is the name of the game. The problem there is they also don't really have endings. So you may be stuck for a while. Make that forever.

Do you let your always let your kid win at games, or make them taste bitter defeat sometimes?

Image via JeremyStockwell/Flickr

fun & games, learning, toddler development, toddler toys


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Selmada Selmada

I have twins. Once they are old enough for games, someone is going to lose, or rather, someone is not going to win. I think all kids need to learn it. I also think they need to learn to both win and lose gratiously.

madfoot madfoot

I read in one of my kabillion parenting books that you should stop losing to your kids around age 6 or 7, because that's when they need to start learning how to lose gracefully. I had to put a stop to "game night" in our house with the stepkids because they are both such rotten sports and each would cry if he lost. Seriously, even the older one. It's aggravating and I feel bad about it but I cannot take the extreme high drama!

nonmember avatar Cindy

I like making people earn their wins. That way, when they beat you, they know they deserved it. It'll make them think harder to develop strategies or whatever. Do you really want to raise your kid to think they can win at everything without really trying? I understand letting your kid win at games when they're too young to understand what winning is, but I feel if you want your kid to win, you should play a game that's more about chance than any actual skill that an older person would have over a child.

Lynette Lynette

sometimes I let them win but that's only once in awhile.  If they always loose they might not want to play games anymore, lol.  We play board games at least once a day. 

Proud... ProudSingleMum

And here's another one of those parenting things that I just don't understand. I don't let my son win. It's not fair to him to do that....even if you think it is. We play because games are FUN...not because someone has to beat someone else. If I win, I mention that I've won and then press him to finish so he can get to the end of the game. And the same happens if he wins...although admittedly I get more excited when he does it! He doesn't throw a fit if I get to the end first, because I've taught him that we play for fun. I don't shove it down his throat when I win. 

lynhea lynhea

I think you should let your kids loose every once in a while...if they have syblings, they will be loosing to their sybling teaching them its ok to loose and to be happy for the other person is a good thing. Otherwise we teach that they always get their way.  But I also think letting them win for fun is also a good thing, it teaches them to have pride in what they do. There are pros and cons with both and I think being successful at it is doing a little bit of both.

nonmember avatar Allboys

We are in the no camp. It's pretty hard to cheat at chutes and ladders anyway. Although it would make the games of tic tac toe much quicker.

RanaA... RanaAurora

You can tell if a child's parents shield them from losing, they are deeply disappointed if they aren't first or lose a game. They don't handle the loss as well as other kids.

Or, the child just doesn't handle it well because of their personality. Despite lessons, all kids are different. It's also a maturity issue.

ReiRe... ReiReally

I think this is just another personal decision of parenting. How do you want to raise your kids? Is it not a big deal and you want them to feel good about themselves? Yes, well, one day they will realize you let them win and know that you just wanted to make them happy.
Is it super-dooper-dooper important that they take loosing like a good sport/ learn that they don't always win/ (your lesson here)? Yes, then, awesome. It's great to teach them the ways of the world and this is a good way to do so.
As long as your not teaching them to be rude, bad sports about games, do what you want to do, Parent,

Beths... Bethsunshine

I do not let my kids win. If they win,they win.  I feel like these sports teams that don't keep score or give trophies to everyone are doing kids a huge disservice. You don't get a job just because you showed up for the interview. Life is full of disappointments and you have to learn to deal with it.

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