There are 3 areas of life I believe are highly personal – religion, politics and parenting. And while I certainly have very strong opinions, beliefs and convictions on each – it is not my place to try to influence others to believe what I believe. To each their own.

However, I am always open to sharing. And that is the purpose of this… for me to share my perspective.

And as both a veteran performance coach and the father of twin 9-year-old boys and a 7-year-old daughter – I get asked for my perspective on this topic often – so I thought I would address it openly.

Should you let your children win?

I do NOT believe in letting my kids’ win in games or races predicated on speed, strength or skill. 

I repeat – I NEVER let my children beat me in games or races that involve speed, strength or skill. 

Now before anyone calls Children’s Protective Services, please let me elaborate…

Like all parents, I love my children more than anything in the world. I would take a bullet for them.

But I won’t let them beat me!!

For context, my children are very fortunate and have a great life. I am thankful that their mother and I can provide with them with love, time, attention and more than their share of material items. 

So everything above and beyond those basic needs – I want them to earn. Aside from their safety, one of my biggest fears is that my children will become entitled. It is an affliction I see running rampant among today’s youth.

I want my kids to earn every grade in school, every dollar in work and every victory in sport.

So I don’t let them beat me. EVER. Doing so provides them with a false sense of self and an unfounded confidence. 

But let me expand…

I believe sports are a vital vehicle for teaching life lessons and values. They are the ideal platform to teach winning gracefully and losing graciously. When I win, I do so with class to model the behavior I want them to see. And when they lose, I hold them to a high standard of sportsmanship. 

In fairness, when they do beat me – and it has happened occasionally in games like Connect Four, Jenga and Tic-Tac-Toe – I am lenient in allowing them to celebrate and enjoy the moment. Last week my son Luke beat me an epic game of Jenga. He won fair and square. And I’ve never seen him happier. Why? Because it was real. Because it was earned. 

I also use my stance as means to stress the importance of the process, not the outcome. When my kids and I are playing a game, it is their effort, focus and grit that are most important to me – not the final score. I do my best de-emphasize the outcome and score. When I win, which is 99% of the time, I ‘act like I’ve been there.’ 

To reinforce the importance of the process, there are only 4 questions I ask my kids after every game, sports camp or activity:

  1. Did you have fun?
  2. Did you do your best?
  3. Did you listen to your coach?
  4. Did you make someone else better?

If they answer yes to those 4, honestly, at their age – I could not care less what the score was!

Now, for those wondering how having a winning percentage of 1% could be good for their little psyches and self-esteems… that is not the full story.

For games based on speed, strength or skill – I intentionally handicap the game to give them a legit chance to win. For example, I give them a 10-yard head start in a 20-yard race or play HORSE on a low basket and I shoot with my off hand. But I still do my very best to beat them! Now, if I have handicapped the game appropriately, they win about half of the time. 

We also play plenty of games of chance – games like Chutes & Ladders, Candyland and Pie-in-the-Face… where my advantage has been nullified completely… as those are games of luck. So they win those about half the time as well.