Kids Shouldn’t Always Win. Here’s Why

boy with trophy

Kids shouldn’t always win. Here’s why

I’m against kids “winning” at all costs.

This refers to the growing trend of letting all kids win and telling them that “everyone’s a winner.”

Everyone is not a winner. That’s why we have the designations of “winners” and “losers.” Someone has to lose. It’s not pretty but that’s life.

And “that’s life,” or “c’est la vie” is the message that I’m trying to teach my kids, but holy moly, it’s really hard to do in this age of political correctness, helicopter parenting and fear of “harming” our kids.

So many parents these days are afraid of what Junior will think when he learns that he is not the best at soccer, or that he did not lead the class with his mark with that recent assignment. Little Emma may be surprised to learn that someone outshone her at the recent spelling bee but trust me when I say that she’ll survive. She will, as will so many other children who don’t come in “first” in a particular race, competition or test. That’s how life is. It’s hard, you don’t always win, but you’ll come through the other side, perhaps even a better person for having competed.

In our latest craze of wanting to shield our kids from the realities of life – that is, that there are winners and losers in the world – we are doing a grave disservice to our children. We are not only delaying the inevitable lessons that they will learn  eventually – that they can’t win at everything – in order to supposedly spare their feelings or cushion the blow that comes with the agony of defeat. By taking this approach to parenting, we are in fact teaching our kids that the world is their oyster and that anything and everything that they desire to do, to have and to want is there for their disposal.

This is wrong, very wrong, and here’s why:

Kids who are taught that they are always winners, in spite of how they really chart in a particular game, exam or otherwise, will be ill-prepared to deal with the realities of the real world when they step outside of the amniotic bubble of home. As a matter of fact, these kids who think that they can do anything are in for a very rude and likely painful awakening. When little Matthew who has been told for years that he is the best speller ever goes into his first job at a corporation and gives his boss a spelling, grammar and typo-ridden document to pass on to a client, he will be summarily slapped down (verbally, of course) and told to clean up his grammatical act. And I know what you’re thinking: but Matthew went to college or university, and surely they must have stopped him in his bad-spelling zeal and marked his papers accordingly, right?

Wrong.

Let’s not ignore the fact that there’s a long history of post-secondary and academic institutions ignoring an academic scholarship student’s grades in favor of having the student in the university or college…winning games, of course.

Children are indeed sensitive and yes, caution and discretion should be used when revealing certain facts to them. This, however, does not preclude the fact that they are thinking beings, quite able to assess certain situations for what they are, and sometimes they’re not good. In other words, in spite of some parents’ best efforts to shield their child from the sad fact that the child is not the best at soccer/hockey/spelling by telling them that they’ve “won,” parents are doing more damage in the long run.

How so?

1) Children will quickly realize that their parents are not being honest with them, which can lead to a whole slew of bad behaviors, resentments and outcomes not the least of which is a lack of trust;

2) These same children will have a skewed sense of reality as a result of being lied to about what is something that seems obvious, even to them. After all – kids are often a lot smarter and in tune with what’s going on than we think.

3) These kids will start to realize that since their parents are lying to them about such events, they’re likely lying to them about other important things as well. The basis of the child-parent relationship will be strained as a result.

It’s understood that most parents want to protect their kids from harm and from the harsh realities of life. It’s also understood that losing is painful, disappointing and demoralizing, especially for children. What is not understood is the pervasive fear of letting kids fail to the point where the children are deluded into thinking that they are always winners and that they can never lose, no matter what they do. In the decision to pretend that a child is always a winner, parents who are doing this are, ironically, setting their kids up for inevitable failure.

You win some, you lose some. An oldie but a goodie. Let’s not forget to remind our kids of this truth before it’s too late.

Do you think that kids should always be allowed to “win” or be given passing grades? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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