Friday, April 5, 2013

Letting Kids Win

Everyone has been there. You're "racing" an adorable 3-year old and there's no way you're letting them lose. We pretend to lose often to watch a beaming child sore with victory. We enjoy letting them win, all the time. 

Then there comes a time when you decide to play fair and maybe during a simple game of tic-tac-toe you don't let your child win. That beaming child now looks devastated. 

For me, this decision to play fair has come at a cost. It is my suspicion that this price is paid by anyone who decides to have their children experience the natural consequences of losing. My grade-schooler is über-competitive. I have no idea where he picked it up! (okay maybe it was from me). In the past, he'd lose, and the aftermath went like this: kid in tears and parents in lecture mode...

"Be a good sport... Don't cry... You can't win all the time... blah, blah, blah"

As of late, my 6 1/2 yr. son and I play a lot of card games together and my husband challenges him to one-on-one soccer matches. More often than not, my husband and son end up butting heads because my son doesn't win every single match. Granted we still might let him win sometimes, but when we don't a "battle"  usually ensues. 

Here's what's helped me alleviate this battle. While playing a simple game of cards with my son, I first notice his demeanor and catch when he is beginning to get frustrated. I know he's eager to win, but I let the game run its course, and if I win and he begins to cry I kindly feedback his feelings:

"I see you're upset and don't like losing." "This time, I won." "Want to try again?"

Sometimes he composes himself quickly. In fact, the time it takes him to compose himself has gotten shorter and shorter with each so-called "battle." Then sometimes my kindness is met with anger. Then other times it is met with him wiping his tears and wanting to try again. So my son has really come a long way with losing. He is upset when this happens, sure, but he's also grown to accept that losing is natural. 

At two recent school functions my son lost multiple raffles and when he did, I saw how upset he was. But he quietly wiped the creeping tears from his eyes, got himself together and offered his feedback on his own feelings...

"I'm upset mom.  I don't like losing. Maybe I'll win next time?"

I nodded and listened. I reassured him that I get it and we moved on with ease. Losing is a part of life. Suddenly kids realize they're not perfect all the time. This can be challenging for their little minds to handle, but with tender love and care the feelings that come with losing can be explored and valued. Through losing a child can develop coping skills for life and the natural growing pains of life.

What's your take on letting kids win? Letting them lose?

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