Growing up as the youngest of three, I was the last to learn to ride a bike, roller skate (which I gave up altogether since I was so klutzy), play checkers, backgammon and most other games. And although I loved playing with my older siblings and sometimes they showed mercy on me, I pretty much got creamed every time we played a game.
My parents showed me a great deal of compassion. When I was too young to understand the concept of Monopoly, with their help, they let me be the banker (I still like being in charge of the money). Whenever we arm-wrestled, played checkers or Go Fish, they let me win most of the time. I still remember that incredible feeling when I won. It felt good.
The desire to win never goes away, but it does take a certain personality to give up always having to win. A close friend, with children of his own, confided in me that when he was a boy, his father never let him win at any game. Not once. It was a memory that he still carried.
Victories, real or imagined, mean so much to a child, and can help build the confidence to continue playing the game. So with our own kids, we let them win…a lot. Their squeals of delight and the smiles on their faces were better than us winning any day. As they got older we didn’t let them win every game. We slowly began to challenge them. By the time they were teens, we could play without holding anything back. Now they cream us fair and square. And it feels good.