How Cheating Against my Three Year Old is Actually Good Parenting

Our three-and-a-half year old daughter was feeling left out. Her baby brother was needy and that meant I couldn’t play “running around games” with her as often as I used to. We needed something that we could do together while the wee guy was occupied in a highchair or held.  I bought Monopoly Jr. thinking that it would bring us closer together. Instead I started cheating at a board game, for her own good. 

I like to store the game pieces in the empty spot where my soul used to be.

Board games (and their video game equivalents) are great for wee kids. She has learned some basic math, and mastered a few minor fine motor skills like rolling a dice and moving a piece around a board. But more importantly she is learning the social skills that are hard to come by at this age. I take a turn, then you take a turn: everyone shares the dice and the game. Cooperation: it’s nice when Mommy helps you by moving your piece for you when you can’t reach, not an affront to your personhood. And, perhaps the hardest thing of all to learn: how to be a good winner and a good loser.

She was doing great at the “it’s okay when things don’t go my way in the game” skill set. We played Monopoly Jr. often and whenever she had to pay to use an attraction, she did it with a smile. “I LOVE the ARCADE! Here’s $2 Mommy! I love you!” She would hand over her little Monopoly money and would yap about how much fun she was having.

Yep, my kid reeks of awesome. Not only can she figure out how to add up $4 without using her precious last $4 bill (she likes to have at least one of every kind) she is a gracious little winner. I gleamed.

Here’s the thing. the kid must have horseshoes up her rear, cause she never lost. Not once in over a half dozen games. It’s easy to be full of sunshine and rainbows when you win. I started to get concerned. Part of this venture was to teach her how to lose. You can’t do that if you keep winning. The longer it took to get to that first loss meant that it would be more of a big deal. Losing should be part of winning, shouldn’t it?

It started small. First, I would actually play logically. It makes sense to get all properties of one colour if you can, and so on. Playing illogically will only teach the kid to think illogically. So I play properly. This earned me a raised eyebrow from my husband. She is three and a half! Ease up!

But then it progressed to using tactics that she really couldn’t pick up on. I would take the Ferris Wheel over the Loop the Loop, knowing that there was a chance card saying “Go To The Ferris Wheel.”  My husband would often “cheat” to move the game along quicker. At about the 20 minute mark in any given game, money from his stash surreptitiously made its way back to the bank. “Oh look, Daddy has no money! Let’s count it up and see who wins!” all the while ignoring my death-stares. She has more money, now is not the time! I considered a special signal between us to let him know that I had more money and that now would be an opportune time to fall on his sword and allow me sweet victory. But evidently I married a man with morals.

 Finally I started “forgetting” to give her allowance of $2 when she passed Go. I won, but victory was short lived. Now that she lost, the stench of loserdom clung to her, causing her to lose about half the time. But, this kid is a winner, and she mustn’t go to bed with the bitter taste of defeat. She demanded to play again. Suddenly Monopoly Jr. became a mini obsession with her.

“Honey, win or lose isn’t really the point. Whenever you play you tell the other person “Good Game, I had fun.” Did you have fun? Cause I love playing games with you even if I lose. I love playing with you.” She came around and yes, playing a game is fun, win or lose.

All this makes me sound like a competitive jackass. Honestly, I don’t care if I win or lose, as long as I am having a good time. I watch football and it drives my husband up the wall. “They have two minutes left and need three scores. It’s hopeless.Give up now.” or “There is only 20 seconds left, why do they even bother running out the clock? I would just hit the showers early!” When I play Magic The Gathering: Online I actually enjoy losing, if I am losing to something really cool. “First one out is the first one to the bar” is what I like to say. I am an excellent loser.

 But, let’s be honest here. You play to win, or you wouldn’t keep score.

Competitiveness is a good thing. She will need that as she grows up. That drive to win is the same self control that you need to stick to anything long enough in order to become great at it. Yes, winning isn’t everything. Unless it is. I like the fact that losing upset my daughter, she has a spine, a fire and she won’t shrug it off until she figures out how to master this skill called “Monopoly Jr.”

My father-in-law is a rec league umpire. He loves the league he umps for at the moment. They are older. “Old enough to take the game seriously, but to not take themselves seriously” he said.  What a fine line to walk. This is going to take years for both me and my daughter to learn.

In the meantime, I think she may be getting Clue Jr. for Christmas. Maybe this time I won’t sully my soul.

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