While walking at a local park this afternoon with my dog, I enjoyed watching a father have a “race” with his young son. The son was probably no more than five years old. When I first saw them, the boy was about 20 yards ahead of his dad, running for all he was worth toward a soccer goal. The dad closed in little by little, almost catching up with him at the goal line, but – not surprisingly – the boy barely beat his dad to the finish.
Of course, the dad gave the boy a huge head start and could have left the boy in his dust if he wanted, but it was far more enjoyable for both the boy and the dad for the boy to win. At such a young age, the boy doesn’t yet understand that his dad is letting him win. Some day, he will.
There are two very different ways to teach your children the lesson that “winning isn’t everything.” One way is to beat the daylights out of them in every competition you ever have with them, forcing them to get a taste of losing and realizing that they’ll live anyway. That’s a rather cold, heartless way to do things and I don’t recommend it. All it probably accomplishes is discouragement in the child, making them feel like they aren’t good at anything.
A more admirable approach to teach the lesson is to set the example that winning isn’t everything by letting the child win. As the child matures and grows in skills, the parent can turn up the competition level appropriately. The child may not come away from those early wins with the lesson “winning isn’t everything” front of mind. There is a good chance, however, that when the child grows up and has his own children, he will pass on the tradition and he will think back to those times when his parents let him win, realizing his parents were good models of the lesson.
It’s best to teach lessons in a positive, encouraging way whenever possible.
Leap year lesson #274 is Be careful how you teach “winning isn’t everything.”