True or false: you can’t know what winning is until you know what it’s like to lose. I say true. How miserably predictable would life be if we got everything we wanted at all times? A world without suspense, guesswork, practice, and improvement—a world of obsolete Personal Records and Fantasy Football drafts. We’re not all winners, at least not all the time. Even the strongest, brightest, and most talented are going to lose. And then lose again. That’s a good thing, albeit a harsh truth to relay to a child.
How many parents (and/or grandparents) out there have typed, “Should I let my kids win” or “letting kids win” into an all-knowing search engine in an effort to protect their children’s emotional and psychological well-being? I’m no parent, but I just did. The answers are highly subjective and considerably varied. I’m also no psychiatrist, but my childhood experiences, as well as a decade or so of babysitting, have me leaning towards a “no.”
My grandmother is and always has been a winner. In addition to raisingenough kids to fill a baseball field (and
molding the minds of more than a couple dozen grandchildren) she’s a fierce and unapologetic competitor. Her back dive is a tough act to follow and she can grace through the wickets of a backyard croquet course before I’ve figured out the least awkward way to hold my mallet. To my knowledge, she never let me win. For that I am grateful, stronger (or sufficiently well-adjusted), and ever in awe of her many talents.
On the other hand, there is a time when it’s acceptable to “accidentally” slip up and let a young novice claim the victory. “I don’t want to make my kids cry,” as a dad friend recently put it. Valid argument, although I feel it’s necessary to point out his kids are under the age of 7. Inflicting unnecessary tear shed upon vulnerable little ones is considerably cruel, and probably grounds for forfeiting the win. As long as the rules are followed and cheating efforts thwarted, I see no harm in playing down a bit to level the field.
We all know it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Yes, it was probably a loser who first uttered this nugget of wisdom, but losers are winners, too. When you fairly defeat your children, you are teaching them life lessons and affording them a vital opportunity for growth and maturity. A loser is not lesser than, and while coming to terms with that first crushing defeat is painful, getting over it and learning from your mistakes will make the next win all the sweeter.