Should we let the kids win?

Encouraging a child to develop a passion for games can be quite a good idea. Passion can be a fuel to self-improvement and your kid don’t necessarily have to play chess. Even games with an element of luck may stimulate player’s brain. Whats more, cards and boards are beautiful objects and this is also good for child development. Since you are reading this text, you certainly understand it, but how can you pass it to your child? How can you stimulate a passion for challenges that come from games?

If you want to see your child playing just… let him/her play. Unfortunately, peers to play are not always at hand so a parent is very often a teacher of the game and the first partner. This teacher and partner often have this problem. Should he/she let the kid win?

The dilemma comes from two problems.

  1. If I let the child win, I will only give him an easy success. I will not teach him anything about the game and I will not teach him to take on challenges or how to lose.
  2. If I don’t give my child a chance to win, he/she will be discouraged. Nobody likes to lose.

Parents usually take one of these stances. They let the kids win or not. Personally, I always suggest something else. Let the kids win but only when they deserve it.

photo: hugrakka (lic. CC BY-ND 2.0)

Let him/her deserve a win

First of all, take the age of the child into account. If your kid is only a few years old, it will be a challenge for him to make moves according to the rules of the game. Younger children should win often, almost always.

Suppose you have a kid that likes to play chess and understands the rules already. Let him win when he tries to use new skills in the game. For example, if a young chess player starts to be smarter in openings or he/she tries to do some tactical operations like pining – let him win. That’s the opportunity to give him a prize. If he plays flippantly and does not try to think – you can teach him a lesson and don’t let him win.

If you are a parent of a young draughts player, you will notice him trying to make a shot. Don’t block everything, just let him shot sometimes. He/she should see that sometimes attacks can be successful. But remember about raising the bar from time to time.

A page from old Polish book about hopscotch and… its degeneration. As you can see, games for children were always in the field of interests of science 🙂

How to dose challenges?

Learning a child to play can be fun for ourselves. We have to keep watching what the child does and carefully lay obstacles in his way. We have to figure out what he/she plans to do. We have to decide whether it’s good to let him/her finish his plan. We can relax and practice our basic skills at the same time.

If we are not sure how to balance the level of difficulty, we can use a rule like this one – “every third move I’ll do something stupid”. If this is too much for your kid, you can make stupid more often. If our kid plays better, you can switch to “every fourth move is stupid” or “every fifth move is stupid”. But you should never inform the child about your system because he will learn to use this knowledge :).

In purely strategic games the parent must take on the burden of pretending a fool. Sometimes it’s a bit harder in games with an element of luck. Your kid can be very lucky from time to time. If you teach your child to play Bridge or Backgammon I suggest playing harder when the kid is lucky. On the other hand, I must admit that games with an element of luck are less stressful. You can always say that defeat comes from a bad luck.

Joy comes not only from winning

Never forget that the game should bring a joy to your child. This joy can be a driving force for hard work and great successes. But joy comes not only from winning and solving problems.

Your child spends time “productively”? It doesn’t mean it’s good for his development (fot. Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-01379)

Many parents want to teach their children to play chess because they see chess as “game for smart”. But remember there are many valuable games and even if someone plays Rummy, he/she can achieve extraordinary mastery and be a professional player. Maybe your child has no talent for chess but a gift to play games like Bridge, Checkers, Go or Othello. Do not take away your child’s joy by forcing him to play “the only right game”.

The games are varied and people are too. A medium Chess player can turn out to be an outstanding Bridge player. And there are people who play checkers poorly, but they just like to play checkers anyway. I think everyone can find a game that matches his personality and predispositions. Some people don’t like chess because of their aggressive nature. Others say that even if they spend long hours playing card games, they are not able to remember cards played in tricks. I think there must be some kind of correlation between games and personality types, but there’s a kind of secret in all this.

Remember. Don’t ruin your child’s joy.

What’s more, I don’t want to persuade you to make your kid a player, regardless of the game. If your child prefers to build airplane models or read books about the ocean – it’s OK. Let him enjoy anything he likes.

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