My daughter is 4, the prime age for games, it seems. Every day we play at least one round of Candy Land, two or three of Uno, one or two of Chutes and Ladders, and some combination of Monkeys on the Bed and a few games you have likely never heard of. Next to dress-up, her favorite thing to do is beat mommy and daddy at games. Except sometimes, she loses.
She is, unfortunately, a bit of a sore loser. Yesterday I beat her at two rounds of Uno, a game she plays fiercely, throwing down draw twos and skipping me with aplomb. Despite her best efforts, I won. I tried not to gloat too much. After all, I want to teach her to win AND lose well.
Still, she hung her head. "I wanted to win," she said sadly. Instantly, I felt guilty. Should I be letting her win?
The thing is, my daughter can win these games all on her own. She has done so even when her dad and I play fairly and try our best. So why should we dumb down our game so she can have the sweet sense of victory? Sure, it's awesome to win, but would I be a good mom if I gave her the sense that she could win every game she played?
The fact is, in life, you win sometimes and you lose sometimes and in order to develop the skills to win, you have to want it. And that means losing sometimes. If I played to less than my ability, she might get the pleasure of winning, but it would be dishonest.
This isn't to say I never help her out. If I see a good move she could make, I will tell her. I might help her "beat" me, but I try to play as honestly as I can.
I'm not the mom who thinks every child deserves a trophy just for playing or that winning doesn't matter. I think a healthy sense of competition and an urge to win are good feelings to foster in children. But if someone wins, someone else has to lose, and even though most of us would rather be on the upswing, the fact is, very often we can't be.
When my daughter loses, which is actually less often than she wins (fairly), I talk to her about "losing" and how it's part of the game and she can't win every time. Failure, "losing," if you will, is such a part of the total package and with every loss and every win, she is learning a little something.
I am not going to let my daughter beat me just so she doesn't feel bad. You have to lose a few times to really get the fire that helps fuel real victory.
Do you let your kids win?