Thursday, December 11, 2008


I am teaching the eldest little clowncar to play checkers (I'd rather rip out my teeth with pliers than play Candyland or Chutes and Ladders, but I'll play checkers til the cows come home). Already, she's pretty good. But I'm stumbling across an issue no doubt encountered by countless parents before me: how hard do you try to win?

Clearly, I can't let her win, as she won't learn how to play - no strategy, no planning ahead, no joy of play. Just mindless self-esteem building that won't amount to much because it's false.

At the same time, I don't want to crush her like a grape. No joy of play there either. She'll never want to play again.

I'm gradually - and happily - learning the middle ground here. When she makes a mistake, gently show her the mistake before you take advantage (but take advantage). Occasionally make little clucking noises when she starts to make a bad move. And, throw her a bone every once in a while. Put a checker in harm's way and see if she jumps it. Pass over the occasionally gapingly obvious double or triple jump available to me.

She hasn't beat me yet. But she's caught me off-guard with a jump a couple of times now. And yesterday she even hit me with her first double jump she figured out all for herself.

Few things in life are as satisfying as your first double jump.


Nancy Dancehall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Dancehall said...

So true.

You and Hux are the best parents.

So where can I find this wondrous homemade white chili you speak of? ;-)

Clowncar said...

That is a sweet thing to say.

But should be tempered by the fact that they don't even ask us to play Candyland anymore, cuz we always, always say no.

And...just follow the smell of the roasting green chiles.

Hilary said...

Sounds like you're doing just about everything I'd do except.. I'd indulge her in Candy Land once in a while. They grow up so quickly as it is..

Gordo said...

My eldest (11) has been playing chess with my Dad for a number of years and if he settles down and pays attention, he can beat me a good portion of the time.

The trick is to try to continue to beat her as long as you can. You don't want her wandering off and not playing because she wins all the time.

Eric Shonkwiler said...

Where are you, Mister Wizard?

paula said...

This is a very interesting discussion to me. I used to let my older boy win at everything which sometimes was hard- high ho cherrio? try fixing that-- and I think it was a mistake, although we have lots of room for mistakes, as my shrink said. Also, THAT said, life is hard. He is now 12 and knows very well what it means to lose. I think I started to try and beat him at certain games- electronic star wars battleship comes to mind- at around age 7. tears ensued. My younger boy I also let win at stuff- but man, he gets beat by his brother at everything, so whatever. Anyway, it's weird. It is important to let them lose. But I couldn't do it when they were three and four and we were playing that memory game and trouble and all that stuff. I made a mistake. But to look at them so happy at their winning! I was weak. Weak with love. There are worse things. Sounds like you are handling checkers just perfectly. YOu are better than me.

Mutha said...

Do you know what other game is worse than dental work? "Sorry." Wanna see a kid's head explode with frustration? Wanna see parents start drinking in the middle just to get through? Then Sorry is your game.
Hey -- there's a thought: you can play your child while you are drinking -- kind of the equivalent leveling factor of Quarters.

Victoria Gothic said...

Its a fine line, that giving away victories and crushing defeats. Most people don't even try finding that; so I'm sure you little clowncar will be delighted when a sweet and well earned victory is finally hers.

Clowncar said...

Hill - I'll play whiffleball and 4 square with them, do arts and crafts with them, make illustrated books with them. But I draw the line at Candyland.

Actually, Gordo, I've told her that as soon as she can beat me at checkers I'll start teaching her chess. I'm not very good at it. But probably better than her. For awhile, anyway.

Eric, we had clouds on the giant full moon night. Bummer. I heard it was pretty cool.

There are a lot of things worse than letting your kid win, Paula. I think you are beating yourself up a little unduly there. I think playing with them to begin with is more important than the whole win or lose conundrum.

Mutha, Sorry is cutthroat! Might as well just hand out ninja stars and let the bloodbath begin. I think that Sorry really start get crying. And me drinking. More.

Vic, most things in parenting (and perhaps life itself) are the walking of fine lines. Parenthood can easily become a series of over-corrections, just trying to stay on course. It's hard.