Disclosure: This article contains references to a game received for review from University Games. We have in no way been influenced in our review. We really, really, really just love this game.
My 5 and 3 year old boys are sometimes really sore losers. Although we still have bouts with the game-losing blues, both boys have come a long way in recent months as we work together as a family on ways to become more gracious losers.
I truly think that in order for kids to be successful in life, they need to lose more than they win.
To clarify, I don’t mean kids should lose out on big things in life (being loved unconditionally, facing medical issues, having a warm, safe place to live). I mean losing in life’s little trials – like games, or academics, or sports.
Constant winning is often accompanied by undesirable traits: overconfidence, cockiness, isolation. When kids always win, they may shut down when they are faced with challenges or failure.
Want to know a secret? People who are very successful often faced extreme obstacles on their path to success. These folks resoundingly cite that the adversities they faced were a key factor in their success.
So, would you rather your child work hard and understand the reward in effort, or would you rather they think they were always the smartest, most talented, fastest? I chose the former.
How to Help Your Child Be a Gracious Loser
Don’t Let Them Win
When we play games with our kids, we play competitively. We don’t “let our children win”, we teach them strategies for success. Take tic-tac-toe and other strategy games – the boys, with mentoring, have gotten strategies that put them in a better position to win. Our boys are so good at some games now that they can really, truly beat us and their grandparents a fair share of the time by out-smarting us.
You know what? When they win – win for real – they feel the success and the adrenaline that comes with it. You know how good that makes them feel?
I’ve gotten fed up with the mentality in our local sports leagues – where everyone is a winner, everyone gets a hit, everyone runs home, everyone gets a trophy every time. Kids realize the whole show is “fake” and the game isn’t that fun for them (or us as spectators). If there is no incentive – the game loses its purpose.
Choose Family Games That Challenge You
Our favorite family game of the moment is Sort It Out! Jr. from University Games. It is rated for ages 8 and older, but some of the questions are easy enough that my 3 year old can participate, and some of the questions are difficult enough to stump the adults. I am seriously considering finding the adult version of this game because I imagine it is outrageously challenging and would be great fun to play with our friends (or future teen children).
Each player gets a “dot holder” and four smily dots to mark their answers to the trivia questions. The boys loved showing their answers on the holders, and I loved the wacky reasons they gave for their answers. I especially loved when they guessed better than me.
Sort it Out! Jr. is the perfect type of game to develop kids’ ability to lose graciously. The game has appropriate challenge, easy to follow rules, strategy (do you intentionally get an answer partially wrong to hit the double point spaces?), and humor. Your family will laugh as they try to determine which animals have no eyelids, if a candle flame is hotter than boiling water, and who in the family has the longest forearm.
Don’t Give In
If your kids are like mine, occasionally an epic temper tantrum will occur after a loss. My first impulse is always to give in and do whatever I need to do to make the noise stop. However, I try to offer alternatives: “Would you like to try again?” “Next time I bet you’ll do XYZ” or other suggestions that are related back to the original game we were playing.
Do I want my kids to lose control of their emotions each time they are challenged or fail? Of course not. That’s why I am working to teach them to evaluate their loss, determine what they can do next time to have a better come, and to keep trying until they achieve their goal.
As a parent, it is my natural reaction to protect my children from anything that might hurt them physically or emotionally. However, I know that if I do no teach them sportsmanship and perseverance, I am setting them up for more hurt in the future. I don’t want that for my kids, so we are practicing losing one family game at a time.
Do you have a kid who has great ideas? Looking for something to pass time until school starts?
University Games is officially accepting original board game ideas for their 22nd Annual National Young Game Inventors Contest #NYGIC. The contest is now open to children between the ages of 5-12 years old with fun prizes including the opportunity to have your child’s game manufactured, a family vacation, a savings bond and more! Complete rules and entry forms can be downloaded at: www.NYGIC.org. #NYGIC2014