Shows parent and child playing game together

Games: Should you let your children win?

Should you let your children win at games?


Have you heard the expression, “Every kid gets a trophy?”

It was my age group that did this for?…to our kids.

We honestly thought we were helping. We thought we would give all of those fabulously unique individuals who were deliriously loved a shot of self-esteem. “You were not the winning team, but hey…you sure played nice with others, your team gets the “Nicest Team Award.” I failed to mention we were talking to the wrestlers.  Yeah…it did not make sense, but it sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

Balance…this is has been a long sought after skill.  In the 80’s women were fighting for equal job opportunities.  There was a commercial, which I loved, by Enjoli Perfume, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man…cause I’m a woman…Enjoli.”  The point was a woman can do it all.  Here is the commercial:

In 1987, we did not have blogs, memes or social media to communicate our woes. Diane Keaton told the story well in “Baby Boom” of the struggle for balance in life, work and “mommyhood”. The ease of “doing it all” in the Enjoli commercial had become a reality of trying to achieve balance in “Baby Boom.”

Why did I digress into a mini history lesson of the 80’s? Balance, many of our dilemmas, as parents, come down to balance. If the 80’s are anything to go by, this has been happening in our history for a long time and we still have not gotten it right!

I would like to share my thoughts on how to achieve a balance in the struggle of not letting your child win at games, but also not creating a feeling of defeat before play even begins.  After all, when playing a strategy game with a new player or a younger child, which I heartily encourage, how can they possibly hope to compete with someone 20+ years older or who has been looking at this particular game and its strategies for possibly years?

Create a strategy for successful gaming!

I have come up with ones I love.  Please add comments if you have others. These only apply to strategy games, NOT chance games.  If anyone can win, because the game is up to chance, like Trouble, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, etc.  The rules are the way they are written and everyone plays to their ability.

Younger Children or New Player Strategies:

  • Change the rules
  • Limit your strategy
  • Play cooperative games

Change the rules:

Many younger children want to cheat so they can win.  I do not think it is EVER a good idea to allow a child to cheat so that they can win.  I feel that this teaches them that they can be rewarded for dishonesty. Teach the game by having the entire game laid out. Then take turns with the cards up, if there are cards, and show each other each move, talk about it ahead of time.  This way your child or the new player sees the strategy, how the game is played and how it is won. After you finish your “mock” introduction game, talk about the rules.  Talk about what makes it really difficult. What rules can be added or deleted BEFORE game begins that remain in place the ENTIRE game that will “even the playing field.”

Examples of changing the rules to help a younger child or a new player:

Chess: extra turns

Allow the new player two turns for every one player of the experienced player.

Farkle: do over

In this game, the player can keep points as long as they get “pointers,” however if they choose to gamble and roll and do NOT get pointers they lose ALL of their points that turn.

Splendor: points

This is the type of game where the winner is determined by who gets a specified amount of points first, raise the limit for the experienced player or lower it for the new or younger player.

Limit your strategy:

There are many ways to win and play different games. While I do not feel that holding back strategic plays is “throwing the game.” I do believe it is important that the child KNOWS this is what you are doing. If they think you are completely playing, to your best ability, they will eventually believe you are giving them “false wins.”

You should also talk about the game, every so often, have the child walk you through your moves and what they think you should do.  If they are not ready, you talk about your moves and what you could do or what would happen if you did this, or that.  This is how your child’s strategy growth will occur.

Examples of limiting your strategy to help a younger child or new player:

Rummikub: only play one “play”

In this game, the players win by getting rid of their tiles using straights or “of-a-kinds.” The experienced player can limit themselves to just straights.

Chinese Checkers: only play your hand

There are many games, Rummikub, previously mentioned is one, where a player can benefit from another players gameplay.  By only allowing the experienced player to benefit from their own plays, it limits their moves.

Backgammon: no blood

In backgammon, one of the easiest ways to frustrate your opponent is to “hold them hostage” in your home area because they cannot get “out.” If the experienced player HAS to make any move other than taking another player out, if possible, this will change the experienced player’s strategy.

Play cooperative games:

The tips and tricks listed above are not meant to negate your child from experiencing loss.  Everyone who plays competitive games should lose…and win.  Experiencing both teaches us how to behave appropriately in both situations.  If you have a child who is simply not ready for these emotions, try cooperative games. I LOVE cooperative games.  Your child will not “miss out” of important lessons if you choose to play these instead.  There are some very valuable lessons to be learned in a cooperative game.  My entire “parenting” blog next month will be dedicated to just cooperative games!

Here is a teaser:

Values learned while playing cooperative games:



Problem Solving

Sense of Belonging

Empathy Building

Strategy Skills

While I do not believe in letting children “win” at games, I strongly believe in supporting and encouraging our children. Just like so many things in life, everything in small doses, or balance is better than a great big amount at once. These tips and tricks are meant to help you navigate game play in your home so that your child can learn strategy, win successfully and lose gracefully.

Kara Peterson

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