The Biggest Loser: Checkers Edition

December 9th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  4 Comments


Among the gifts JP received for Hanukkah this year was a checkerboard that I picked up at the dollar store. Last night we played for the first time, and not surprisingly (I hope), I won. Unfortunately this disturbed JP quite a bit, and the end of our two checkers games included some tears, a rather lengthy hug, and an explanation on my part that he shouldn’t be sad that I beat him, that he needs to practice and get better to beat me, and that, no, not everyone in life gets an equal share of victory, and while that may or may not be fair, it’s kinda the way it is.

As I was telling him this—and congratulating myself on being a rocking good checkers player—I realized that in practically every other instance, I let JP win. If we race down the block, one of our more common pastimes, JP either beats me by a nose at the end or we tie. I take care not to beat him. Or if we’re having an eating race—another fun game!—I generally contrive some way for him to share in the victory (no, Daddy didn’t win—he hasn’t finished the entire bottle of wine yet).

Judging by his reaction last night, never letting JP lose probably isn’t a good idea. I don’t want to get all squishy, but learning to lose properly is a rather important life lesson. I guess I always figured he’d learn about it when he got a little older and grew competitive along with his peers. No sense rushing him into it, particularly given the current mania for drilling anti-competitiveness into little boys among the learned set in our great cities. I just never wanted to make winning or losing an issue, so I suppose I copped out—he got to win or tie, no losing.

Now, let’s be clear: I take no great pleasure in cleaning a 4-year-old’s clock at a board game. But I think he’s getting nearer to an age when earning a win might be more beneficial than protecting him. But I don’t know. Really, I don’t. I want him comfortable with winning or losing, but I certainly would prefer that in his life he wins more than he loses. Who wouldn’t want that?


  1. SCOTTSTEV says:

    December 9th, 2010at 11:56 am(#)

    You might want to ease gently into letting him lose. From what I understand, very young children get discouraged very easily and will quit something they don’t easily master, it’s just a stage. As they approach their tween years, they can handle losing better.

    Though it infuriates “I’m not PC” assholes, the current practice of not keeping score for pee wee soccer and tee ball is actually pretty wise. You want to keep the focus on working hard and improving, not on the results of any one game. That said, you’re larger point is very true. It’s our job to prepare our children for the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be. But part of that process is creating a snug cocoon while the children are very young, from which they can venture forth.

  2. Matt says:

    December 9th, 2010at 12:14 pm(#)

    I think JP needs to see you get beat by someone else, so he understands that everyone loses. Maybe a weekend trip to Washington Heights for a sidewalk dominos game is in order?

  3. dadwagon says:

    December 9th, 2010at 12:23 pm(#)

    Scottstev–agreed, on all counts, and it was kinda what i’d figured I would do.

    matt–if that includes a lechoneria, i’m in. –theodore.

  4. Jack says:

    December 9th, 2010at 2:33 pm(#)

    Children need to learn how to lose. It is an important lesson and one that I work on with my kids. You don’t want to break their spirit, but if you don’t teach them how to lose it is that much worse when it happens.

    Because out in the ‘real’ world people aren’t always that nice about it.

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