Winning, Losing, and Why My Mom Stopped Playing Games With Me
These two words can create chaos out of calm in 5 seconds flat.
I must admit- I’m a recovering sore-loser. I still remember playing Hi Ho Cherry-O as a kid with my mom, and totally losing it when I lost. SO MANY TEARS. My mom eventually told me that she wouldn’t play any more games with me.
And she didn’t for several years.
This game hiatus didn’t fix my losing problem. It just showed up in another area of my life- school. I always wanted to be the best at everything in the classroom–the best handwriting, the best test scores, the best reading level. In second grade, I remember keeping a close eye on what SRA book color other people were on. If I saw someone approaching mine, I’d kick it into high gear so I could stay ahead. And of course there was always the Book-It chart with a sticker for each book that a person read in 5th grade. 😉
A few days ago Asante was telling us about a social studies game they were playing in class where everyone had to answer a question on their digital devices, and the answers and individual rankings would be displayed on the overhead screen. Each person had a codename so the results would remain anonymous. Not surprisingly, Asante knew who everyone was, how many they got right, and how everyone’s ratings fluctuated over the course of the review game. Apparently he’s my son. 😉
Lysa Terkeurst’s new book, Win or Lose I Love You! is a great book to read as a starting point for talking to our kids about wining and losing. In this story, Lulu and Max host a field day for their forest friends in order to choose a new leader of the forest. With each game, comes struggle among the animals. One is a really sore loser. Another cries. In the end, Lulu and Max help their friends sort out their feelings as well as choose a leader of the forest. The leader doesn’t end up being the animal who wins the most, but instead the animal that displays the most compassion, encouragement and forgiveness.
In addition to the story, Lysa gives 10 verses that families can memorize together to remind us of our need to love deeply, and putting others before ourselves.
One thing to be aware of—some bloggers have criticized this book because of something Lulu says to the Coyote (who was a sore loser). She says, “Coyote, you behaved badly, but you aren’t bad. What can you do to make things better?” The critique is that it’s bad theology to say that Coyote wasn’t bad, but just behaving bad. The bloggers have referenced several verses talking about the inherit badness of all people without Christ.
While I believe that all of us have a natural inclination towards sin (which almost always looks like some sort of selfishness), I disagree that we should tell kids they are bad. Behavior is bad? Sure. Typically I would choose to use a better descriptor word than “bad” (unkind, greedy, unloving, selfish)… something like, “You took that toy from her hands. That was not a kind way of treating your sister.” The kids actually have this thing where they say, “You’re bad!!” to each other when they are on the receiving end of some injustice (in their perspective, it is the ultimate insult). Jake and I are very quick to say, “No, she is not bad. She did something unloving, but one unkind thing doesn’t make her a bad person.” Always. Every time.
I believe if you frequently tell preschool and young elementary kids that they are bad (i.e. meaning their whole self is bad and that there is nothing good about them), then you are setting them up for a very unhealthy view of themselves. I can almost guarantee they will have a hard time loving themselves, and then loving God and others as well (which sums up everything God desires for our lives here on earth).
As we share the messages of Scripture, we need to think carefully about what we’re teaching our kids, as well as how they’re interpreting and internalizing our words at the various ages and stages of their lives. We have a responsibility to teach them in developmentally appropriate ways so that we’re not hindering them from understanding the message of the Gospel and God’s love for them.