Playing For Blood

Toys of Christmas Past

Image by brizzle born and bred via Flickr

Kris at Every Tips and Thoughts wrote a post about games and letting her kids win feeling bad about winning.  I disagree.  This post is an expansion of my comment there.

When we play games in my house, we play for blood.   I’ve never let my kids win and they know it.  From the first time the kids attempt Memory, they know they’ve got to earn a win against Mom and Dad.   They know if they lose, they must do so gracefully.  If they pout or cry, they lose game privileges for a while.  I demand good sportsmanship, win or lose.

To be clear, my kids are 3, 4, and 11 and they are all held to the same standards of sportsmanship.   Win or lose, they will do so gracefully.   There will be no temper tantrums when they are Sorry’d and no pouting when the Queen is captured.

It took my son almost 3 years to beat me at chess.   When it finally happened, he was almost as proud as I was and still talks about it 5 years later.

It’s not much fun playing games with his friends. They were coddled and expect to win everything.  I have to take away game privileges just like I do for my 3 year old.  They hate that because we have the coolest board games.   Nobody else has games that involve zombies or disembodied brains.

What has the result been?

My kids love playing games.   This week, my oldest has been teaching his sisters how to play Life.   When he visits his friends, he’s as likely to bring a board game as an electronic game.    He’s got a good mind for strategy, and I can’t remember the last time he pouted when I tromped him.

My 4 year old hasn’t mastered gamesmanship yet, but she will.  When I threaten to put the game away, she wipes her eyes, and keeps playing, even if her jaw is chattering.   She knows what is expected and works to live up to it.

Both of the older kids are competitive.   They’ve never had a win handed to them, and they have each had wins they had to work for, and they know how it feels to win and earn it.

The youngest doesn’t care if she wins, she’s just happy to play.   In my experience, the competitive gameplay gene doesn’t activate until 4.

In my mind, the real world won’t hand them any wins, so I might as well start teaching them how to work for it now.

How about you? Do you let your kids win, or do you teach them that all games are bloodsports?

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    1. We are like that in our house too. I am an uber competitive person, my grandfather handed that down to me. I remember playing him in chess and I only got better because he never let me win. I still remember the first time I beat him, I really did feel like I accomplished something.

      I wanted to give that feeling to my children. I knew I had earned it and so do my children when they beat me or each other in a game. It feels great to win.

      Good sportsmenship is also important, even if it is fun to say “neener neener” a couple times.

    2. Interesting. Our kids are about the same ages, and I play for blood 95% of the time. Card and board games are full-on, no-compromise events in our house.

      I do relent when playing physical sports games. I won’t be hurling a baseball full force at my kids…maybe in a few years.

    3. Sounds like an interesting strategy – I dont have any kids currently, but If I did, they’d definitely be taught to act the same win or lose.

    4. Hahaha, great post! I probably let the kid win once in a while. I don’t know, we’ll have to see how it goes.

    5. Tin Foil Hat says:

      Bless you Jason. We don’t have any kids but are really worried about the future of this country, with most kids today being taught that they get a prize just for showing up. God forbid we should harm their self esteem by letting somebody actually win and lose. I think your kids will be among the leaders of the future, because everybody else will be too busy whining to accomplish anything.

    6. Play for blood so that they can learn the struggle part of it. To achieve something they should work hard. Sometime let them win, it will be fun, don’t you get excited seeing your kids smiling?

    7. Playing for blood is the only way to play. My son is 15 and finally starting to win some games like basketball and shooting pool. Can’t beat me in arm wrestling yet though. I bet it will take him quite a while.

    8. Thanks for linking to my post.

      However, I do want to clarify my position a little bit here. Except for Candyland, I did not LET my kids win (unless I was teaching a strategy like in chess where I wanted them to see how they would win from certain moves). My point was that I feel bad winning in certain games like Monopoly where they have to hand over all they own to me. It is just that I always cheer my kids on, even when they play against me. They are all great sports, it isn’t like I let them win everything so they feel great about themselves. I just don’t like ‘taking’ from my kids if that makes any sense.

      I still win when I should, but I am not out for blood I guess.

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean to say you let your kids win. That got clarified in the discussion at your site. I guess I didn’t edit enough after that.

    9. I commend you for this. I used to substitute teach and there was a distinct difference between the kids who were graceful losers and those who expected to win. I think using the games teach them how to get back up after losing is a great opportunity and will serve your kids for years to come.


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