Like most children, my grandson loves it when he wins. And while it is tempting to stack the deck in his favor or let him win outright, I know from my teaching experience with Kindergartners that this is not a good idea. Let me tell you why.
We don’t win all the time in the real world
I know this may sound harsh, but the reality is that a person cannot win at everything he does or every time he plays a game. Children who are allowed to win when they play with adults will be very surprised, disappointed and even confused when they don’t win the game when they play with a friend or another adult.
I would occasionally see children in my Kindergarten class melt down into a tearful tantrum when they were not winning a game played with another classmate. Often the unhappy child would argue with his friend and then stomp away when things were not going as he expected.
To prepare your child for the real world, it is necessary to help him learn to lose gracefully and be willing to play when he does not know the outcome of the game. I’m not saying to purposely make sure that your child loses. That will happen naturally as the two of you play games together. Sometimes he will win and sometimes he will lose. That’s reality!
Games stop being fun if you always know who will win
Children love to win, of course. But if they win each time they play, the action becomes boring. There is no thrill to a game that is predictable. And it is also not much fun for the adult who throws every game so his child wins.
The rules are the same for everyone
Children who always win catch on eventually to the fact that they are being given leeway when it comes to following the rules of the game. While we all like to feel special, the subtle but clear message that “the rules don’t apply to me” can be very harmful to a child. To get along in our world and at school, children need to be respectful of the rules and guidelines. It keeps them safe as well as allows them to function effectively and get along with others.
How to play fairly with a young child
– Explain the rules and play a few times while reviewing the rules.
– Express excitement in playing and focus on the game, not the winner or loser.
– Gently remind your child about the rules if he forgets or tries to get around them. (One note: 4 year olds may try to “cheat” once in a while by moving their game piece or taking another spin. As long as this move does not result in an unfair win, if this only happens occasionally, and if the action is one that another child playing would not notice, then I let it go. Kids will be kids and calling a very young child out for every minor infraction can really take the fun out of the game. I would be more strict with an older child – 5 years old and older.)
– Let your child know that you are still having fun playing the game even when it appears that you are behind or losing.
– Say a quick “congratulations” when your child wins and ask to play again, if there is time. This will give your child the opportunity to feel happy about his win but not gloat over it. This also demonstrates good sportsmanship for your child.
– When you win, tell your child that he played a good game and ask to play again. Remind him that either one of you could win this next game! Once again you have to opportunity to demonstrate good sportsmanship!
Renee shares tips for working with young children at www.schoolsparks.com where she offers a free kindergarten readiness test parents can take to assess their child’s readiness to start school plus hundreds upon hundreds of free kindergarten worksheets for parents to use at home with their children.