Should I Let My Kid Win at Board Games?

Do you let your kids win board games? Shame on you! Are you swayed by cute little faces or sad little tears? Sucker! “Wait!” you exclaim, I want my sweet babykins to feel good about himself. He needs to face this world with healthy self-esteem. Nope! "What if she loses interest in board games if she never wins?" Probably not going to happen. All of your reasons are hogwash. I am firmly in the “never let the kids win” camp, and if I haven’t lost you already, I’m here to tell you why.

Why You Shouldn't Let Your Kids Win At Board Games

An Entire Generation Never Lost At Candyland and Look What Happened

Junior thought he was so good at Candyland. He realized something was wrong when he ran home crying from game night after losing at Catan in his early 20's.

Junior thought he was so good at Candyland. He realized something was wrong when he ran home crying from game night after losing at Catan in his early 20's.

I know stereotyping an entire generation is ridiculous, and I know many more amazing, hard-working,  millennials than the so-called entitled ones. However, as a young (fine, middle-age) professional by day, I have met a few entitled millennials. My hypothesis is that none of these entitled man-children ever faced disappointment in their childhoods. They probably earned participation medals for everything. They were probably told they could do anything they wanted, regardless of skill. Yes, little Dakota, anyone can grow up to be president. Wait a minute…

Before I digress, I doubt their parents ever let them lose at Candyland. Look where this got them. They think we owe them things because they’ve never lost. Now before you scream at me about Candyland being pure luck, it only takes a quick slight of hand to rig this game in your kid’s favor. I’ve seen my husband do it. I’ve also seen him pass up a good tile in Kingdomino so our daughter can have it. For the record, he NEVER lets me win (editors note - sometimes it's better to let Fifi win). Sigh.  

No, I do not think winning at Candyland has ruined an entire generation. Rather, I am making the point that failure is good for kids. Why? Read on...

Failure Is Good For Them

           Sorry princess, you have to earn that trophy.

           Sorry princess, you have to earn that trophy.

Recently we brought home one of my new favorite family games, Kingdomino. We taught our 9-year old how to play and we tried to give her as many pointers as possible during our first game. After that, she wanted to “do it herself.” Good, I thought, she wants to do this on her own. Well, she is 9, and this was her second game of Kingdomino ever, so naturally she lost. She did not take it well. Daddy took the piece she needed. Ugh! How dare he! Game night abruptly ended with tears and a door slam. Unpleasant for all? Yes, but we ignored the outburst. It was a good lesson for her to learn. As kids tend to do, she got over it quickly, and was back to her happy self in no time. We’ve played since, and even though she hasn’t won a game, the dramatic outbursts have stopped.  

Why was this a good lesson? I promise she will lose again and again, and she won’t always be in the comfort of her own safe home. By allowing her to lose, she learns how to lose gracefully. Losing gracefully can take some practice. The more she plays and loses, the more practice she gets. The plan is to prepare her for losing in life so 15 years from now, she won’t throw a hissy fit and slam doors the first time she loses a deal at the office.  

Losing Helps Them Appreciate the Win

                                Someday you'll thank us for this crushing defeat...

                                Someday you'll thank us for this crushing defeat...

A day or so after the Kingdomino incident we were playing a family game of Love Letter. The kiddo thought she had us. She was up four tokens of affection to Daddy’s two. I only had one at that point. I’d like to claim this was because I was letting her win, but alas, you know I don’t do this. Guess what? Daddy came back and won. The tears started to well up, but she didn’t storm off. Lest you think I am a monster, I did comfort her. Losing does suck. Disappointment is a real feeling, and I let her know it was OK to be disappointed.  

Later that day, I asked her if she would have wanted us to let her win. She didn’t even have to think about it. “No,” she said, “then the win wouldn’t really be mine.” Even she knows a false win doesn’t feel right. If you know you really earned your win, you can savor and appreciate it.  

If You Don’t Lose, You Don’t Learn How To Get Better

In our house, one life lesson we have a hard time getting across is the need to practice at something to get better at it. The kiddo wants to give up on things too easily and hasn’t yet subscribed to this theory. However, games are fun. She wants to play them again and again (sometimes again and again and again and again). Each time she loses, she learns a lesson from her mistakes she can use to play better the next time. Games teach strategy, forward thinking, spacial skills, social skills, and even patience. She doesn’t even realize she is learning. Bwahahahahaha!

I’m Too Damn Competitive

     Don't throw more tantrums than your children.

     Don't throw more tantrums than your children.

So sue me, I hate to lose (Although I promise I am a gracious loser. I lose a lot, but I have never cried at game night. Outside of the bathroom, I mean. Just kidding, I wait until I’m driving home). I hate to lose so much that, nope, I’m not going to let a kid beat me.  

Now sure, I am not going to force my child to sit down with me and play game after game she has no chance of winning. I want to earn my wins as well. As we add to our board game collection we also look for family friendly games where she has a chance to win. She has won Tsuro, Love Letter, and Quixx to name a few. In game types where her age and experience make it tougher for her play and win, I am not above giving helpful tips and hints, but honestly these attempts at help are usually met with, "Moooom! I can do it myself!”

Kids Need to Know Their Place

What, you say? My kid’s know their place. They rule my life. I am their cook, chauffeur, nurse, maid, playmate, etc. Yeah well, save that last sliver of your pride and show them who is the real master of Splendor. You are mom & dad, you really are.  

Article by Fifi. Fifi knows that though you shouldn't let kids win at board games, this advice changes if you're playing with a Wookie. Always let the Wookie win.

What do you think? Should you ever let your child win at board games? There Are No Spouses in Board Games, but are there parents and children? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out our features on The 10 Types of People Who Ruin Game Night and Board Game Addiction: Why You Have It And What To Do About It.