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My daughter sat there in the living room in tears. It started with a slight quiver of her lip, then one small tear rolled down her cheek, and then a flood of tears gushed from her bright blue eyes. She was devastated. What brought her to the edge of despair? It wasn't a death in the family, it wasn't the denial of dessert, it wasn't that I took away her favorite toy. The reason she was so distraught was because Mommy won at Monopoly.
As any game player will know, a rousing game of Monopoly will—on occasion—end in tears. With the hours spent playing this classic Parker Brothers game, participants often become emotionally invested and take winning and losing very personally. You can tell a lot about a person on how they handle defeat and I was hoping that my daughter would learn the art of losing at an early age. But it appears that this life lesson will take longer to sink in than others, like remembering to brush her teeth or not to aim flying airplanes at someone's face. And losing may be more challenging for her to embrace since I made the decision to not let her win. Perhaps I should rephrase that, it's not that I won't "let" her win, but rather I won't sandbag, take a dive and let her claim victory without earning it.
I interrupted her tears after our Monopoly battle to try to explain this to her, but she didn't agree with my game theory. "You're just mean. You should just let me win. And you shouldn't have put hotels on all your properties and you kept on buying everything you landed on! You're just mean!" This was after I told her how proud I was of her for securing Park Place and Boardwalk AND building hotels on them. I hugged her, wiped her tears and questioned my resolve. How could I not when faced with a sad little girl. But I'm sticking with my playing fair and square regime for her own good.
Learning to lose is a vital part of being able to enjoy game night.
We just started playing competitive games in our house. Before, it was more about collaborative games and ones that had to do more with luck than skill such as Chutes and Ladders and Candyland. But cut throat games like Monopoly can teach valuable lessons not just in strategy and math but lessons such as learning to lose, and how to be a gracious winner. These kinds of games will, undoubtedly, be a mainstay in our family. Learning to enjoy the process is important just like the old adage says, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." And learning to lose is a vital part of being able to enjoy game night.
Now before you join my daughter in thinking I'm mean, I should explain that it's not like I'm out for blood. I do not play as fiercely as I would if I were playing my husband or a friend; but I don't dumb down the game to "let" her win either. I want her to be challenged. I want her to win fair and square. I want her to relish in the win—when it happens—for what she accomplished on her own, not because I let her win. There was a time when I would make moves that would allow my daughter a leg up on winning, but now that she is 7—a secure, confident and bright 7-year-old—I feel like I shouldn't fake it. We can play for real.
In an iVillage article on questioning whether to let your child win, a parent brought up Monopoly saying, " . . . sometimes you spend all of your money on Boardwalk but the yellow properties turn the tide. So many analogies and philosophies can be taught while playing, but cheating negates the lessons." I totally agree. And it seems if you let your child win too much you will be doing them a disservice.
Parenting expert Sara Dimerman wrote on Today's Parent about whether you should let your child win in order to boost their self-esteem, saying, "Unfortunately, if a child always has to win to feel good about herself, she might actually be at greater risk for feeling bad. Learning how to cope with placing second or even last goes a long way toward boosting a child’s self-esteem. Children who know their own strengths and how to focus on their personal best often develop a healthier sense of self-worth than those who always need to win."
Learning to lose is a biggie, and while it isn't an important life moment, the emotional exposure that games can safely provide, can really help your child know how to face other challenges in life. So my kid will be ready to lose although we are raising her to be a winner.