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Teaching your child to be a good loser

Posted by Kristen on January 5, 2009 at 6:46 AM in KristenRaising Boys
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For Christmas we got Ethan the game Chutes and Ladders. It was only when we broke the box out today that I remembered the whole concept of the game.

You spin the wheel. Sometimes you get lucky and end up at the bottom of a big ladder and sometimes you end up at the top of a long slide. I had forgotten how this game makes you feel. In case you had forgotten, it makes you feel lousy when you are playing with Mr. Lucky (Dad) and you are the kid that seems to continuously ending up at the top of that slide. Ethan and I watched as Derek made it to spot 89 while I hovered in the 50's and Ethan couldn't seem to make it past 30.

I'll admit it. I had an urge to cheat. When my spin came, I silently prayed that I would spin a 4 so I would drop below my son. His father did cheat. He rolled a 6, did a complicated counting maneuver and landed on the long slide down to the bottom.

D: See, Ethan. Sometimes you get lucky and go up a ladder and sometimes you have to go down a slide. The important thing is being a good sport.

He wasn't having any part of being the good sport. It wasn't fair and he wasn't even sure he knew why it wasn't fair. He was just annoyed at his bad luck.

We tried to hang in until the bitter end but we didn't quite make it. I know we have this whole movement now that says that all kids are winners and everyone is the same, but that isn't really true. There will always be someone who is faster than you or smarter than you or more winsome than you. You should learn how to be a good sport and be supportive of others when they are doing better than you. It's just a life lesson I'm not sure is easily taught to a three-year-old. Oh, heck. It's not going to get any easier as he gets older, is it? So I think for now we'll just put the game away. Maybe we need to find a game that is based on skill rather than luck. It seems slightly more honest. I just don't know.


matt writes...

while there does seem to be a movement towards teaching children today that everyone is a winner, i find it counterproductive and far from reality. I have a six year old who doesn't take losing well yet when he want's to play any game I ensure him that I will win and the only way he can beat me is to practice. I do praise him when it takes me longer to win as it means he's playing hard but at no time do I let him when on purpose. Losing is a life lesson that all must learn and the earlier one learns the better. If my boss praised me for screwing up why would I try harder not to screw up. Childhood is a gateway to adulthood not to some eternal disney land.

Nicola writes...

We definitely played "Snakes and Ladders" (possible the UK version?) lots when I was a child. Maybe I was a bit older than three through. Who knows... I think we played Snap, and Uno too when we were very little, all games that probably taught us that life is random, and sometimes we loose. Hard though! I used to not want to play family games if there were lots of us, because I didn't like to lose in front of my cousins, but it was ok in front of mum and dad and brother...

Laura writes...

I remember this so well from when my son was younger. We'd put the game away and then try again in a few months.

Even now, he just turned eight and we're playing different games, it's sometimes hard for him to be a gracious loser. I often tell him that it's hard to be a good sport, lots of grownups have trouble doing it too.

Brian writes...

I always play Candyland with my son ( a aimilar game) and the game always ended when he has to go back to a previous part of the board. I felt i shouldn't just let him win.

Manic Mommy writes...

HRH is six and we still struggle. When we entered into Chutes and Ladders/Candyland territory, we let him win. I don't know that we did him any favors.

I think especially with games like these, where it truly is luck, you're probably better off playing by the rules. Then teach him to be a gracious winner and a sore loser.

elizabeth writes...

I have a 6 year old who just started playing checkers... a game which I have trouble with! There have been a few throwing the board across the room, crying and just plain ugh behavior. He is the one who suggest playing..last night he tried so hard not to cry when he thought he was going to lose (broke my heart).. but I didn't "let him win"....we stopped the game and talked about his feelings and about "its just a game"....he asked to play again tonight. He's getting so much better but still lost to his Poppy, but wasn't a very gracious loser. Should we continue to play when he ask to or just put the game up for now and come back a few months from now?

Jason writes...

I have a seven year old son that loves the Carolina panthers, and I love the New York giants. Well, the giants and the panthers played each other a couple weeks ago and the giants won the game.

My son took it so hard that I had to explain to him that you cannot win all the time. It was pretty tough watching him cry because his favorite team lost. That is why it is important to teach our kids that there are winners and losers in life. And not everyone can win all of the time, and that losing is just something to motivate you to work harder next time.

Isabel writes...

I bought my 3 year old the hi-ho cheerio game last summer. On our first game, I won and he lost. What do you know, it resulted in a big dramatic scene which then turned into a life lesson about winning and losing. Months later, I bought the chutes and ladders too. Now he can recite that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but he still throws a hissyfit about it.

Luke writes...

Yeah it is very important to teach them that winning isn't everything & even when they do lose, that it is about having fun not about who wins or who loses.

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