Let Children Win at Board Games

By Theresa Foy DiGeronimo

If your 3- or 4-year-old is sweeping every Chutes and Ladders tournament you play, then you're doing something right, says Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, MEd, coauthor of Keeping Your Kids Out Front Without Kicking Them From Behind: How to Nurture High-Achieving Athletes, Scholars, and Performing Artists (Jossey-Bass). Psychologically, pre-schoolers are not yet ready to learn how to lose, "They're too egocentric," DiGeronimo explains. "They think that if they lose, they've lost the whole wide world, and that they'll never win again."

So camouflage your competitive streak till your kid is about 5 or six and shows that he can tolerate frustration. Once he can wait for meals, wait his turn on line, or wait for the guests to leave before ripping into birthday presents, allowing him to win every time is a no-no. Losing to you will teach him how to handle disappointment in a safe, low-stakes environment, preparing him for the inevitable at school and on the playground. Don't criticize the tears or discipline the tantrums that will follow. This is time to soften up and empathize.

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