When should I stop letting my kid win?

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Advice from a professional baseball player, a board game designer and others

Basic Dad advice column
MEL Magazine

March 20, 2019

It was about a month ago that I first introduced my toddler to the game Candy Land. At first she was really excited to play — it’s a cute, colorful game perfect for her age. But instead of doing what I figured most parents would do and let their kid win, I decided to play it fair and if I won, I’d model gracious winning for her, figuring she would benefit from the lesson of losing.

Well, my brilliant forward-thinking parenting idea blew up in my face. I did win Candy Land and was as gracious as I could be, but my daughter broke down in tears and said that she hated that game and vowed never to play again. And true to her word, in the handful of times I’ve suggested to play it again since, she declines saying, “Daddy, I don’t like that game.”

It seems like it’s probably a good idea to let your kid win, at least some of the time anyway, so for any games going forward — except Candy Land, of course — I plan to let her win some, and then I’ll win some. That much I’ve figured out, but how long do I keep this up for? Can I ever competitively play a game of Monopoly or basketball or anything with my kid? At what point can I actually play with them without stacking the deck against me?

Basically: When do I stop letting my kid win?

Kimberly Bell PhD, clinical director of the Hanna Perkins Center for Child DevelopmentI wouldn’t necessarily say that a parent should let their child win. For example, if it’s a game of chance like Candy Land, you would monitor the kid’s frustration level. So in that game, there are pieces that can send you backwards, and if a very young child is struggling too much with that part of it, you can play the game by taking those pieces out. For something like chess, what might help them win is for you to point out when the child is about to make a move that isn’t so great and suggest to them something else. That way, it can be a teachable moment instead of you yourself making a mistake so that they win, because kids will pick up on that. For something like basketball, you might …



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