Leveling the playing field

16 Jan

No, this is not a post about Lance Armstrong.  I could not care less about Mr. Armstrong or his cheater-cheater pumpkin eater liar-liar pants on fire ways.

So Goose, who is now 11 (11!), received an iPod touch for Christmas this year and has started playing games with her dad and me.  When I play games with my kids I don’t necessarily bring my A game.  I don’t believe in letting them win all of the time because I think it’s important for them to learn to lose and lose gracefully.  Good sportsmanship, accepting defeat and trying again, and playing for the fun/love of the game are important life lessons. At the same time, I don’t think an almost 40 year old woman massacring her 11 year old daughter  at Words with Friends on a regular basis (or maybe even at all) is an especially effective way to teach sportsmanship or confidence or self-esteem.

Chuck does not share my philosophy. It’s really more like he doesn’t have a philosophy–he doesn’t think about it. He plays the Z on the triple word every time. He does not instinctively hold back or go easy just because his opponent is a child.

I remember as a kid being excited for a new high score on some game only to wake up and see MOM on top of the leader board.  And not just at the top but in every slot.  My hard fought victory completely obliterated in a single night’s sleep!  That’s a fond memory for me now, mostly because pretty much all of my mom memories are fond now. But I also think she knew me well enough to know it wouldn’t break my spirit.

It’s a fine line to walk sometimes–pushing our kids a little harder so they can grow, but still giving them the confidence to believe they can.  We all need a victory now and then, however small.

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14 Responses to “Leveling the playing field”

  1. tawnya January 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Oh, yeah. We have this in our house. Isaac takes the Chuck route…without remembering our child is 6. Sigh. But it does make those times he trounces us in Trouble that more rewarding…

  2. tawnya January 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    And, well, I’m pretty sure Isaac would say it’s a DUTY to play the Z on a triple word / letter every time…

    • bythelbs January 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      It’s definitely painful not to!

  3. Kathy January 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Kids need to learn that life is full of wins and losses. But the real lesson is that a loss won’t kill them and that they may even learn a lesson from a loss. Like… what should I have done differently so next time I won’t lose. I have a real problem with kids never losing anything! When EVERYONE wins a trophy or a blue ribbon just because they participated is crazy. What lessons are they learning from that? That just isn’t the way it’s going to be when they are adults… they don’t get a job they really wanted, they don’t get the partner they wanted, etc. They never learn how to handle defeat. Life is full of losses and they better learn how to deal with it and be ok with it.

    Maybe giving a kid a loss they can learn from is the best.

    • bythelbs January 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

      I agree with you, Kathy. I just don’t think it does them much good to completely trounce them every time you play with them when they are young, especially when you’re just playing to try to have fun together. I like to make them work for their win, I just don’t work as hard for mine sometimes. My daughter gets excited now whenever she loses by 15 points instead of 150!

  4. Mother of the Wild Boys January 16, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Can I just say how much I love that you properly use “I could not care less”? It is a total pet peeve of mine when people say they “could care less”. Then there IS less that they could care!! Don’t they realize that?! Ugh. Anyway, you just gave me another affirmation of my undying affection for you. :)

  5. madhousewife January 16, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

    You know what’s really hard? Letting your kid win at Tic Tac Toe.

    My seven-year-old has almost zero tolerance for losing. She’s going to have a rough life, I think. Fortunately, my child who most likes to play board games (that would be Elvis) doesn’t really care who wins. He only cares about finishing the game. Except Tic Tac Toe. He gets really upset if he doesn’t win an occasional game of Tic Tac Toe. Is there a metaphor here? One that would include the Tic Tac Toe clause? I don’t know.

    MB was promised a new chess set once he’d beaten his dad at chess, fair and square. He was only maybe 8 at the time. But he kept playing and eventually he did beat him fair and square. I think it was much better for his self-confidence, knowing that he’d earned the victory.

    On the other hand, I’m really not a competitive person, so if the kids want hollow victories, I’m their woman.

    • bythelbs January 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      I think you have to tailor it to each child. I love that MB was able to beat his dad fair and square-that’s a meaningful victory and a great lesson for him.

  6. foo4luv January 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    “That’s a fond memory for me now, mostly because pretty much all of my mom memories are fond now.”

    I love that line. So funny because it’s true.

    I tend to take your point of view on playing against the child. If it was word games, I couldn’t pull out the obscure, never-heard-of-it stuff. This was especially important when BB wasn’t the world’s best speller.

    Dad once told me that the trick to playing Othello with a kid (the game, that is, not the character) was to try to win without taking any of the corners. I wonder if it would be possible to win Scrabble-like games without using any triple word scores. BB used to limit me on how many letters could be in my words. And she got to use the dictionary.

    • bythelbs January 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      That sounds fair. I mean, if you were trying to teach your kid soccer you wouldn’t start with the pros, you’d start at their skill level and work your way up. I try to more closely match the skill level of my kids, while still making it challenging so they hopefully learn something and improve.

  7. thewoobdog January 18, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    My parents never played games with me (it was a childhood dream of mine to have a game-playing family…). My mom DID teach me to play chess, but then wouldn’t play with me anymore once I started beating her. [It’s important to note that had I been beating her because I was a chess genius, things might have been different; in actuality, I was beating her because I had zero strategy. My sole aim was to take as many of her pieces as I could. It was this lack of Iappropriate chess strategy that drove her nuts and led to her refusing to play with me.]

    I still have this small trapped child within me that loves to play games – me and my husband play Words with Friends constantly and all of my issues with my in-laws pale before the blinding glorious realization that they will play Yahtzee and Clue and Phase10 (etc) with me (when my husband lets us stay long enough after dinner).

  8. thewoobdog January 18, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    All of that to say, in a roundabout egocentric kind of way, that the fact that you PLAY games with your children is the important thing. I will say, though, that I had an uncle when I was little who was a pool shark, and he trounced me soundly (with much patronizing advice) every single time we played, and it was soul-crushing. Having a parent who plays her at her level and lets her take home a win every once in a while is probably a thing that will be looked back upon fondly by Goose someday… (either that or she’ll look back some day and wonder why her mom’s vocabulary was so limited… it could go either way…) ;-)

    • bythelbs January 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      I’m sure there will come a day in the not so distant future when she will be regularly kicking my trash at everything without out my help. Well, I suppose she’ll have the help of my inferior skills, but you know what I mean.

      Thanks for the validation. This parenting thing seems like such a crap shoot sometimes!

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