I’ve mentioned before that we like playing educational games as part of our homeschool routine. My thirteen-year-old son loves to make everything he does into a game, and he learns best when there are elements of fun. Most days, it’s tough to get him to participate in school, so I add games into the mix to keep him connected.
However, I have two other sons who struggle with the whole winning/losing concept, and while you can modify games to eliminate winners and losers, I’m not sure you really should.
In life, there are those who achieve more success than others. You may not get the job you want. You may not get the boyfriend or girlfriend you want. You might discover that the dreams you’ve had your whole life really are not possible. Life is hard, and sometimes it seems unfair, and I think we want our children to be prepared for this. At the same time, we want them to understand the highly important concept of picking themselves, dusting themselves off, and starting again. Playing games is a great way to teach this to children. If you lose a game, you try it again, or you try a new game. You don’t refuse to play altogether. And as you try new games, you’ll find the ones in which you excel, and you discover new avenues of success for yourself. You can have success—you just can’t look for it in the same place all the time.
See, I have awesome reasons for wanting my sons to participate, but in their minds, if they can’t win, they don’t want to play. My ten-year-old takes it as a personal failure if he loses, that he’ll never be as smart or as fast as the others, and it becomes a self-esteem issue for him. My seven-year-old believes that life is unfair if he loses … well, actually, he’s never made it all the way to the end to see if he’s won or lost. He likes to leave the table as soon as things start to look like they might not go his way, and I really want to help him outgrow that—it’s a terrible mindset to have as you move through life. You can’t quit jobs and relationships as soon as they turn a little bumpy, and I want him to learn perseverance and problem-solving skills.
So we are definitely going to keep playing games. We’re going to work on having positive attitudes, on congratulating the other players, and we’re going to even set up a reward system for those who do not throw fits when they miss a question or aren’t as quick with a skill. We can’t all win at everything—it’s not possible, and it’s not good for us to think we can. What we can do, however, is to become the best at taking everything with equanimity, and that is a life skill I can totally support.