I had an interesting conversation with my friend about a month ago when we met for dinner. She is now taking her master degree in early child education psychology and she shared with me some of her paper projects. There was one that caught my attention the most.
Because her study requires lots of observation for her research, she likes to observe, analyze, and assess children’s behaviors. One day, three of her nephews were playing in her house. Two of them were in primary school and on of them was still around three years old. She said that the little one obviously was the one who couldn’t play fairly. He didn’t want to loose at all and showed terrible attitude whenever he was loosing a game. So my friend took this as her paper project. Well, I don’t really remember what was the title of the paper project now, but it was about how to teach your children to play fair even when he/she is still in a very young age and how can the child deal with his/her own feeling or showing the right attitude when he/she is the one who loose on the game.
I’m not going to discuss what was in her paper, but this thing reminds me a lot of what happened to lil boy too, and I’m sure that almost all parents experience the same thing as one of their children development phase. And it is certainly not easy to deal with this kind of thing.
When lil boy was very small, we as parents or other family members used to let him won whenever we played games together. It was just parents instinct in my opinion. Then winning had became a must for him. He couldn’t take it when he lost the game. He would do anything to win like cheating on a game (in front of us), changing the rules of the games whenever he liked, showing tantrums behavior whenever he might loose the game, or even quitting in the middle of the game or refusing to play with someone who didn’t want to give him the victory. Even though it was obvious that he had lost the game, he still claimed himself as the winner and declared clearly that “I WIN and YOU LOOSE!”
Whatever we did, it didn’t matter to him. Sometimes we told him that we were upset because he was cheating during the game, we refused to play with him if he continued to change the rules, and even stopped playing with him whenever he tricked us. It didn’t help changing his behavior though. His ego was still too big.
We tried to tell him that it’s ok to loose sometimes, that no one at school will play with him if he cheated, and his friends might be very upset and angry if he doesn’t play fair. Once again, nothing changed. Well, it wasn’t an easy process actually. We still tried to educate him on how to play fairly in a game because we think it’s very important for his social life.
Then one day (it was after his sixth birthday), something had changed. He suddenly asked to play a board game with me and for the first time he followed the rules and didn’t try to cheat at all. He even lost and I won……….and he was ok with that! This is seriously amazing for me. It didn’t stop there. I tried again several times with other games and the boy has really changed. Even until now! He doesn’t try to manipulate the games or change the rules. He is ok with loosing the games now. Sometimes he’s still mad or upset if he loose, but I think it’s normal. I’m sure he’s not able to control his emotion 100 percent but I’m positive it will changed by the time he grows up.
So if you ask me how to train the kid to play fairly? The answer is I don’t really know. Because in my case….it was just plain luck……..
Ok, not really just a luck. But I learn something from this case. Every child has his/her own stage development. It is our job as parents to guide the child on how to do the right thing or showing the right attitude towards something. But do not treat him/her like an adult. His mind is different from adult. His emotional control is different from adult. His ego is still very big. We can not ask for instant result from the child.
The best thing to do is to give correction in a way that the child can understand and every child is different. For my boy, the best time to talk heart to heart to him and give him some advice is before bed time. When the lights are all turned off and we cuddle together on the bed and we are not busy doing anything else, that is the best time for me to talk to him. Most of the time it works that way.
Then guide the child by showing him how to do it correctly. He must see that it’s ok for me to loose the games that we play and how I react if I loose. Then little by little he will learn from what he sees.
I also try not to compare my child with other child in his age because they’re just different. If other child can do it and mine can’t…..it doesn’t mean the end of the world for me (although it’s easier to say than done….). As long as I give the right stimulation and coaching, he will be able to do it in a different way.
In this case, I believe he can take our advice because he’s bigger and more mature. He is more able to control emotion. Our talks seem to be more rationale to him. I sometimes feel guilty that I might be too hard teaching him when he was little. I should have known that at that time he couldn’t really understand what we said about win and loose. The concept just didn’t make sense to him. It was right to teach him since he was small about winning and loosing, but I couldn’t expect for an instant result. After all, patience is a must when dealing with little children.
I believe this can be applied in most cases when dealing with our children.