Stuffsoup – a little blog with a lot of "stuff"

When did we stop letting kids win?

Posted in parenting by stuffsoup on August 5, 2010

Two boys raced frantically toward the top of the stairs that I happened to be climbing. Their mom was lagging behind. One of the boys grabbed for the railing on the top just barely edging out the second boy and he shouted with glee, “I win!”. “Awww,” lamented the second boy.

There was an age difference between these boys. I am not sure how much. But, it was the older boy who won. I wasn’t struck by the competitive nature of these (most likely) brothers, or even the rambunctious nature of their race which was taking place indoors. I was however struck by what came after the mom reached the top of the stairs as well. As the first boy smiled and the second boy was plotting his next race, the mom leveled them both by saying, “You didn’t win.”


Then she sort of shifted it around to say that each of the boys had won. Ahh, now I see… political correctness. As I was now passing this group, I could see the wheels turning in each of the boys heads. What had they just learned, I wondered. Here’s what their faces seemed to say to me…

The first boy was deflated and seemed to be wondering why anyone should strive at all. What’s the point? We all win, right? Why work so hard at it?

The second boy seemed way less satisfied than one might think after being declared a “winner” as well. Seems he had no reason to strive harder either and he knows deep down that this “compliment” rings hollow at best. Did he now wonder about other compliments he had received? Were these false as well? Maybe that art project he had done wasn’t so great after all.

It is hard to watch the second place “suffer”. But, let’s not sell kids short… they know when they’ve gotten second place. They know they didn’t win and, I think, they are ok with that mostly as long as you are. Better luck next time or a focus on a personal best versus the contest is way more motivating than false claims of victory. And, just think how much sweeter victory will be when it is honestly strived for and earned.