You kids have finally reached the age where you can play video games together. It’s every gamer dad’s dream when the kids can move beyond board games and get into video gaming. Now the question arises: should dads let their kids win at games?
Ask any number of dads and you’ll get slightly different answers ranging from “never” to “it depends”. It’s a tough question since every dad wants to set a good example for their children. Read on for our take on the matter.
Should Dads Let Their Kids Win At Games?
Our short answer is: it depends. It depends on your child’s age and if you are trying to teach a specific lesson. I know “it depends” is a lousy answer, so let’s break it down a bit.
Teach Good Sportsmanship
Younger kids don’t really care about winning or losing. Ever played a game with a toddler? They just want to have fun and occasionally try to put something in their mouth. At this stage game play should be about sharing and learning to take turns. Admittedly, most dads aren’t putting their kids behind an Xbox controller at this stage. During the younger years you can develop your child’s love for games with board games.
Once your child hits preschool is when you can expect some competitive behavior to surface. Games become more challenging and starts to require some level of skill. Strategy games, like checkers, are some of the early games kids pickup at this stage. Parents should focus on having fun and learning to share when playing games with younger kids. Once they hit preschool, however, playing by the rules starts to become important.
Be a Role Model
Now your kids are old enough to understand and play by the rules. You might even be getting into some easier video games. At this stage the question of “should I let my kid win” becomes important.
My personal thought on the matter is that kids need to learn how to win and lose with grace. Yes, winning is important in life. However, everyone will eventually lose. Teaching your child how to be a good winner and loser will help them later in life when the stakes are higher than beating dad at Super Smash Bros.
Dads should let their kids win on occasion. This shows the child that you can play a game, lose, and still have fun. It’s an opportunity to teach by example. Of course, you should also win and demonstrate how to be a good winner. Yes, the victory dance will serve to highlight how poor of a dancer you are and likely confuse your child. The real lesson is in how you’ve won and been graceful in your victory. We all have encountered the sore winner. The person who wins then is a complete jerk about it to everyone else in the office or on the team. My objective has always been to avoid raising a jerk.
Letting Your Child Win
Most of us, contrary to what our bumper stickers say, aren’t raising a child prodigy. If you are then you can skip this section. For the rest of us, our kids will most likely see us winning more than losing. To avoid game fatigue from losing more often than not dads can handicap themselves to level the playing field, much like in golf.
How you handicap yourself is up to you. Play against more kids. Start with less items in your character’s inventory or give your kid a head start. Whatever route you decide is up to you. What is important is explaining why you’re giving yourself a handicap. Let your child know it’s because of your age and experience and that it isn’t a pity handicap. No child wants to feel the indignity of knowing you are letting them win.
I’m sure some folks will disagree with this approach and that’s fine. I see it as no different than a golf handicap. Any time I play in an event at the local golf course I get to use my handicap. This means my not-too-shabby 20 handicap helps me compete on a level field against those scratch golfers. I don’t see it as providing an unfair advantage. Rather, it makes the game more interesting for us non-scratch golfers.
Regardless of what lesson you’re trying to teach it sometimes doesn’t stick. Your child may be a sore loser or have an inflated ego.
The Sore Loser
You’ve just won and your child’s response is to storm out in a rage. After suppressing your laughter you ask what’s wrong. Your child’s response is some mix of scream and nonsensical words. Rather than let the situation deteriorate and get more emotionally intense, try to put their feelings into words. Something like “you appear to let losing make you angry” or similar. Say it as a matter of fact and not in a sarcastic or condescending tone. Getting their emotions into words they understand can open the door for conversation and a learning opportunity.
Remind the child that no one likes a sore loser. It’s also a time to provide some “hamburger feedback”. Mention one positive from their game play. It could be anything big or small. Next provide some constructive criticism on what they can improve next time around. Finally, end with another small win.
The primary takeaway should be that losing happens. It’s how you lose and what you learn from the loss that matters. If you lose and learn from your mistakes then it is really a win disguised as a loss. Next time around your child won’t make the same mistake and might end up victorious!
The Ego Trip
Letting your child win all the time might make them happy, but it sets them up for trouble down the road. We all need to know what losing feels like. It makes us stronger and builds resilience. Dads should take the opportunity to win, and sometimes by a large margin, to ensure their kids know what it’s like to be on the losing side. Hopefully when your child is competing at school or with friends they can recall what it was like to be the loser. Sure they can still celebrate their victory, but not at the expense of others.
So, should dads let their kids win at games?
The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. Every child should know what it feels like to win and to lose. Only by experiencing both outcomes will they develop lifelong skills. They also need to see their hero, that’s you dad, win and lose. Kids learn more by what they see from role models than from words. So set a good example and most importantly remember that gaming with your kids should be fun!