When adults play games with kids, conventional wisdom would suggest that the outcome of the game is largely in the hands of the adult.
Whether you’re talking physical competition like backyard sports or something more strategy-based like chess, adults often have the advantage of being bigger, stronger, smarter, and more experienced than young kids, simply because of the age and development gaps.
But what about the idea of letting your kids win?
A recent Wall Street Journal article explores this idea through the lens of playing Monopoly. There are differing schools of thought on this. Some might argue that a child who always wins never learns to deal with failure, and no one likes a sore loser.
Life can be tough, and learning to deal with and overcome failure at an early age is important to a child’s development. Young kids can still tell when you’re not giving your all, and might view your lack of effort as having given up on them. But if you always use your full adult ability when competing with your kids, you’ll risk driving your child away from playing with you and them developing a sense of what psychologists call ‘learned helplessness,’ the feeling that you can’t overcome a challenge regardless of the odds.
What’s your policy when it comes to playing games with your kids? Do you let them win or do you play your hardest, no matter what? Is there a middle ground that can be found as a parent, where you’re still trying to compete but also teaching your child values beyond winning?
Stephanie Marcy, Ph.D., licensed psychologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles