Should I Let My Kids Win?

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When it comes time to playing games or sports with your kids I am often asked by parents, “Should I let my kids win?”  This in itself is an excellent question and one that can not be answered with a simple yes or no.

The Whiffle Ball Incident

Whiffle Ball
Whiffle ball is a great game for young and old alike.

I remember quite clearly when my oldest was only about two years old and we were playing a game of whiffle ball up in the mountains.  My kid was at the plate and popped up a ball in foul territory down the third base line.  I raced down the hill and made a diving catch for the out.  One of my friends called me out for not letting my son get a hit and I quickly replied, “what is he going to learn by that?”

The way I looked at it was that in a real game an opposing team would not let anyone have a hit so why would I?  I turned it back on my friend said I would rather show my son a good example of hustle to make a play too.  I would rather my son learn by my example of hard work and hustle versus having a brief moment of joy on a perceived success.

Why You Should Not Let Them Win

In my opinion, the vast majority of the time it is best to play to win yourself as it sets a better example.  Sure there are definitely is an exception to this rule and I will get to it in a minute.  First though, lets explore why I think it is best for your kids to learn the hard way.

Making Kid Think and Work to Win
Don’t be afraid to encourage your kid to think and work hard to win.

The main reason that I believe this is because life itself is all about learning how to move forward.  When you let your kids win, you are teaching them that people will let them get by without the proper effort and that will not help them out in life.  You want your kids to learn that they have to put forth effort and hard work to succeed.

Going back to the whiffle ball incident, had I let my kid get that dinky little hit he would not have learned that he had to hit the ball better than that.  I know some people will argue it is okay in that one moment to let the kid win, but life is only built with moments and it is important to make sure your kids are getting moments that they can build a productive life with.

The Exception To The Rule

Just like most rules, there can often be an acceptable exception to it and in this case there definitely is.  If your kid has put in the hard work and effort and truly did do all the right things, then an occasional “slip” would be acceptable.

Lucky Four Leaf Clover
If luck is on your side, then maybe an exception is okay.

Think of it like this, your kid did the right things to learn the process but you were extremely lucky and was just in a better position to win.  This could be a moment where your luck changes at the last moment to let your kid sneak in for the win.

I will caution against doing this on a frequent basis as you really want your kid to learn how to overcome and win via their own hard work and efforts.  However, as a parent you sometimes need to look at the larger picture and a win might be what the kid needs to keep him working at improving.

Wrap Up

Summing this all up, I think it is best to say that letting your kids win only reinforces a more lazy approach to life.  Where as making them work for their results will teach them to have a better work ethic in life.

The Talent Code Daiel Coyle
Some good info in here.

One book I read really helped me to open my eyes to this way of thinking is called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.  Since I read that I have made several small changes in my life and they way I have raised my kids with very positive results.  I would definitely recommend it if you would like to delve more into this subject.

If you have any further questions, concerns, or comments, please leave them below and I would be more than happy to help you with them.  If you have any stories along this line that you could share as well, I would greatly appreciate it.

James W D
james@familygamenightideas.com

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8 Replies to “Should I Let My Kids Win?”

  1. What a post James.. I completely agree with what you have tried to express here..
    Games are meant to be games and I believe that we should never teach kids to tie up the “winning emotions” and sports.. when we let them to win easily, we are actually subconsciously sending messages that “winning” matters more than the joy of just playing the game to make it “big”..
    True winners are those who play game because they love the “game” more than the “victory”.. nice reading your post 🙂

    • Hari, Your statement here is very well said and I appreciate that you shared it with us. I think that you are also very correct. I do like to say that life is about the journey and not the destination and that ties right into this.

  2. I actually don’t have kids, but this was an interesting read. I once saw a guy trample his own kid in a game of street hockey. I know that these types of lessons are necessary, but I am glad that I don’t have to teach them.

    • I can definitely understand that point of view. Before you are a parent and with just one child, you will often be more cautious and protective. However as you have more kids, you learn pretty quickly that your kids need to learn lessons the hard way sometimes.

  3. It is usually one of those agonizing moments when you are playing a game with kids and thinking whether you should or should not let them win.

    However, you brought it up nicely with reasons and on why and why not!! Great article! Cheers!:)

    • It can definitely be a stressful moment for the parent and I wanted to help alleviate some of the stress by expanding on the topic. It is important to remember both sides of the coin with this particular situation, their actions and your example.

  4. Thanks for the info on the idea if I should let my kids win. such an interesting issue in a society that is all about boosting self esteem.
    I find it so funny how everyone gets the same award when they compete in sports as kids. I personally believe your not teaching the kid about how to try and overcome in life by letting them win, but it definitely is a line when you don’t want to totally discourage them. It might be good to intersperse games that they don’t win or lose the game is just played. Games that develop skills for winnable and losable games. glad you touched this subject!

    • I totally agree with your thoughts here. I was shocked when my oldest played Basketball for the first time and at the end every kid that showed up got a trophy. Then we wonder why kids are growing up today with a sense of entitlement…

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