Don’t get me wrong, I feel terrible when I beat my son at something. Whether it’s checkers, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders or whatever, seeing that wave of disappointment sweep over him leaves me feeling like a big bully and full of guilt. However, I know that deep down, having him suffering the agony of defeat is a good thing. And I think back to when I was young, growing up playing cards and games with my uncle, grandparents, and mother, and how they didn’t always let me win, and in the process, taught me how to both win and lose with dignity.
I have to admit that there are certainly both pros and cons to letting a child win though.
I’m fine with letting my son win once in a while since it helps him build confidence in himself. Confidence to at least try, to know that he can come from behind, and to push hard even when things look hopeless can be important lessons in continuing to work hard even though he thinks he may not succeed. With confidence in himself, he may be willing to try things he might not have been willing to do otherwise.
And while I don’t think it’s healthy to let my son win every game we play, just beating him into submission each time we play a game likely won’t do much other than make him not want to play at all. Since I want my son to have fun and continue playing games with me, as well as with others, letting him win sometimes can make the process more enjoyable for him and keep his interest up in hopes of winning again next time.
A False Sense of Superiority
There are however things that I have to watch out for when letting my son win though, and a false sense of superiority may be one of them. Beating the old man each time we play may not set the best example for him. Thinking he’s king of the roost and undefeatable when it comes to the games we play might not only build cockiness when he’s playing with me, but with others as well. And this could make it a long fall from grace when the kids at school whip his little tail when he’s thinking he’s untouchable.
Inability to Lose Gracefully
Not losing often enough might also make our little one unable to handle losing gracefully. For many kids (I remember thinking back to my own childhood), learning to lose takes time and practice. Many times that practice comes with plenty of thrown fits and tantrums, and in my opinion, that “practice” is often best handled in the privacy of one’s own home.
Expectations of Winning
While I want my son to be a winner, I don’t know that I necessarily want him expecting to win every time he plays a game. Again, such expectations could be a real let down as he enters school and eventually the real world, as very few of us find ourselves consistently winning in everything we do. Therefore, I think that letting him suffer those initial defeats at the hands of someone who loves and cares about him, and who will explain how or why he lost, might be better.
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