Parenting

Why do I let my kids win at everything?

Ian wonders if coddling his kids' feelings is the right thing to do

Photo by nicolesy/iStockphoto.com

I was in Winnipeg this week, when I received an instant message from my wife saying that she had just opened a brand-new board game of Monopoly Junior.
 
Two thoughts immediately raced through my mind:
 
1. How long will it take our kids to lose the game pieces? (Considering life-sized stuffed animals often go missing in our house, I’m assuming that tiny thimble has no chance.)
 
2. Which child will throw a bigger tantrum when they lose?
 
Our kids cannot handle losing no matter what the situation. It’s not that they have a competitive fire that burns deep inside; it’s more like the constant glowing embers of whining that always seem to flare up.
 
They want to win at everything — but without the hard work that goes along with it. And when they lose, they automatically want to quit the activity they are doing to see if a fresh round of programming is available on Treehouse-on-Demand.
 
Sometimes Lily wants to have a running race with me, but the outcome is quite predictable. I will jump out to an early lead like Ben Johnson at the ’88 Olympics and when she realizes she isn’t going to win, Lily will throw herself onto the ground screaming. 
 
She will only be satisfied if we’re running side-by-side and I pull up lame with a sudden injury just before the finish line and she is declared the winner.
 
She basks in the glow of this phoney victory and, ironically, she’s the one who suddenly looks like Ben Johnson at the ’88 Olympics.
 
Is this healthy for me to let her win at everything? Should she really think she’s faster than me? Or a better Wii bowler? Does she believe that her father actually can’t win at Tic-Tac-Toe? Or that I’m really on a 35-game losing streak in thumb wrestling?
 
If I really tried my best, I would dominate my kids in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippo. I could actually stop all of their penalty shots in soccer — often without even looking. And if I really wanted to flex my muscle, I would beat them in a race running backwards.
 
But instead, I just let them win so that whatever game we’re playing doesn’t end.
 
I should point out that I was known to flip a board game or two back when I was seven years old and losing against my family. But my parents never solved the problem by letting me win. In fact, I think they took secret delight in crushing my self-esteem during heated family games of Uno.
 
I was raised on a generation where kids’ feelings were never coddled. If you sucked at Chutes and Ladders in 1986 it was a tough pill to swallow. Nobody was going to pat you on the back and give you a trophy just for showing up.
 
So why am I coddling my kids’ feelings now that I’m a father? Are those old Uno memories secretly haunting me?
 
As parents, I feel like it’s our job to teach our kids how to lose gracefully. But by letting them win all of the time, I’m probably doing the exact opposite.