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Learning In Losing

Posted by Patience on November 4, 2009 at 10:03 AM in play
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go fish

It was an epic battle battle of Monopoly. Jack had been begging us to play for weeks but honestly I was dreading it. Jack had been losing at lots of games lately and it was starting to really bother him. I think he thought this might be his chance to show the world (i.e. his brother) and himself what he can really do. He's a good little negotiator and is already sporting some business sense in these early years.

Jack had built a nice little empire of properties while Josiah turned down most opportunities to purchase real estate. Josiah was being cautious, waiting for the right moment but I could tell even he was starting to get nervous. Then he landed right on the jack pot, Park Place. He had acquired Boardwalk a few turns ago in a deal with Jorge. He immediately sunk every last penny into houses and hotels. Everything was stacked, the stakes were high, he just had to wait.

"Oh, I am so sorry Mom that you have to pay me but the rent is $350, I'm so sorry." Jack said with the most sincere heart. I smiled and paid my dues while quietly hoping Jack would win. The next turn Jack rolled the dice, counted nervously and instantly buried his face into his hands, Boardwalk. He landed on Boardwalk. He knew it was over, the heartbreak was just too much. We did the math, trying to keep him alive in the game while he sobbed.

"I lost everything!" he cried. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure what to say. I just rubbed his back, agreed and listened. I wondered how I could have navigated this parenting moment better. The competition was too much but he wanted to try so badly. I kept thinking how hard it is sometimes to be little and have someone bigger, faster, stronger ahead of you. Being the middle child myself, I know this part of learning, growing, being shapes who you are.

Tell me what do you do in moments with your children when losing feels so big?
How do you handle games, competition, and the like? Do share in the comments.


Sam writes...

I personally don't have kids, but I was the youngest of two children growing up. My brother was always ahead of me in video games, board games, trivia, sports, chess and music (the most important aspect of my biological family) I remember thinking that if I practiced enough and tried hard enough, I would eventually beat him. And I did, in sports, chess, and certain games. That's all you could really teach your kids, is to tell them to persevere until they win

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

Okay sam, this comment is so encouraging to know you grew up just fine, no loser trauma. :) and you eventually won...

Jay writes...

In our family games of Monopoly we grant loans to keep each other afloat. I know it sort of defeats the purpose of the game, but it's still fun. Oh, and they are no interest loans at that.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

I dig the loan idea Jay! Thanks!

Lara writes...

I have 2 boys, 7 and almost 5. My 5 yr. old has been having a hard time with a similar situation...his brother "always win EVERYTHING!" I explained to my yougest that I was also the youngest and that my sister beat me at everything for years. I also explained that one day he would get bigger, just like I did, and that when that happens...his brother might not win at all.
I also find it important to remind them of why we play games and that losing is ok sometimes if we played hard and did the best we could. That there is such thing as "just a game" for the fun of it.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

do you think this is a more gender specific issue? i remember losing as a kid to my sister but not caring so much, or maybe I did and I can't remember?

Amy writes...

Like Sam, I don't have children, but I babysit often and I am the youngest of two. It's never easy to lose but it's a very important life lesson - life is hard and we can't always be the winners. What is important, as Lara says, is that you do the best you can and enjoy the fun. A tactic I've always used is to play hard and concentrate on the game - not the outcome. Cheer on your competitors and forgive your own mistakes or missteps. If you are the winner, be gracious - if you're the loser, be even more gracious and congratulate the winner sincerely. That way, next time you play the game it's more fun - because it's about the fun and companionship with the other people you're playing with.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

It's so is often about the process and the joy of playing, I learn and re-learn that with each child. Thanks Amy!

Ben writes...

Before we had kids my wife an I decided that we would never let our children win or even go easy on them when playing board games or video games. Losing teaches kids (or anyone really) more about game strategy than winning easily does and learning to lose gracefully is a very handy life skill as well. And well we didn't want our kids to be "that kid". You know the one who always blames losing on something abstract like a certain character or an unlucky Monopoly piece rather than understanding that games take practice, strategy, and sometimes a little luck as well.

My eldest is six and after suffering years of runner up syndrome in cart racing video games he now wins about 50% of the time and is a real challenge (and joy) to play. Also, Monopoly is a full contact sport at our house. Contracts are written out on paper when trades are made and occasionally artificial commodities are created and traded as well in the course of the game (i.e. trading Boardwalk for five free stays represented by poker chips which are then traded or sold when opportunities arise). We don't simplify it for him or grandma for that matter, but we do have an end of the game ritual where everybody verbalizes how much fun they had and congratulates the winner on a particularly keen or fortuitous move during the game.

It has paid off for us. My son is competitive like his parents, enjoys the game for the sake of playing, and has learned that unlucky die rolls happen sometimes.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

You had me cracking up at contracts and poker chips as my husband and I are this competitive. We have a 17 year game of Skip-bo still going. :) I hear you on losing being an opportunity to grow and inspiration to try harder. It's good to hear a different perspective.

Susan writes...

We struggled with this-
First we read the social story Liam Wins the Game Sometimes. Real simple and to the point it is PERFECT! I actually shared it with my sons teacher and she bought it for her own library.
Another thing is to let him win then do what he does- show him what his behavior looks like. Then ask him what he thinks. Is it fair to win and have someone throw a fit- doesn't it make you sad that you can't enjoy your win because I am screaming and crying?

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

I love the book suggestion Susan! Thank you!

Dee writes...

Thanks for the insight to the whole sibling winner/loser thing. I had trouble understanding why my younger sisters never got over me beating them before. I understand a little better now. I needed to be a more gracious winner. I didn't get the gracious part until I was older.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

I know what you are saying Dee, I understand so much more about my sibling relationships now that I am an adult...I have found that my kids are really interested in my own sibling stories so maybe they will know more than I did?

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