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Subject: Always try to beat the child on his first game? rss

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Sam Mason
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I’m seeing a trend with my son. The games where he tries to whine and cry to get his way are the ones I let him win consistently the first few times we started to play. The ones where I didn’t, like Loopin’ Louie (which is more difficult as I couldn’t control Louie), he didn’t really mind losing his chickens or even losing. He’d just say, “Let’s play again.” Contrast that to Monza where he would start to throw a fit even as I was just catching up to him. That got me to thinking maybe it would be a good idea to try to beat the child every time during his first few plays of a game, and then just slowly ease up a bit on him (play sub-optimally at times or add some handicap rules) on the next games. Thoughts?
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Marc Nelson Jr.
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Father of three here, 11, 7, and 5 - all boardgamers.

I have always played to win, EVERY time. Now, I will remind them about rules, give them takebacks if they didn't understand a rule, etc. But on my turn, I'm making the best move I can.

A few other rules we've always followed:

- No quitting.
- Shake hands and say "Good game" when're done, and there's no gloating or making fun of the loser.
- Games are not toys - by which I mean, if you want to stack things up, or make the meeples fight each other, go play with LEGOs.

My goal has always been to train good boardgamers who play hard, follow the rules, and are good sports. These are my future opponents, so I want the best!

And the seven-year-old just beat me at Iron Man Battling Card Game, so I guess it's working.
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Sam Mason
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marcnelsonjr wrote:


- No quitting.



Wow. How were you able to implement that on the younger ones? I can't imagine how to make a crying child continue to move his meeple.

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Matt D
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brassomason wrote:
marcnelsonjr wrote:


- No quitting.



Wow. How were you able to implement that on the younger ones? I can't imagine how to make a crying child continue to move his meeple.



I'd say the following and then give him the choice:
"Part of playing a game is finishing. If you don't want to finish this game that is ok, but we will not play it again until you are ready."
I did that once with my daughter. She finished, and then we played again.


I don't think he is physically forcing a crying child to play. But if a child's response to losing is to cry, then perhaps seriously they are not ready for that game just yet.

There's a very active thread in this same forum right now that discusses a lot of these issues.
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Matt D
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Aaaaasnd I just realized that was your thread too. Why start two threads on (almost) the same topic?
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Sam Mason
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hestiansun wrote:
Aaaaasnd I just realized that was your thread too. Why start two threads on (almost) the same topic?


It took me a while to decide whether or not to start a new thread. I finally decided to it since this was a bit different (making sure you win on the first game as opposed to just enforcing the rules), and others who thought of the same thing won't have to wade through a different topic. But administrators are free to move this back to the other thread if they deem it appropriate.
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Rachel Poulos
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I almost said this on the other thread because any discussion of children and games is probably going to involve the question of whether to let them win.

I am in the camp of "never let a child win." In addition to winning and losing being a part of life - you also provided analytical opportunities for young children to start seeing patterns in successful strategies.

That said, I don't believe it is healthy for a child to never experience winning. Obviously, in any game that requires a modicum of skill, the adult is at a substantial advantage. Rather than having the adult throw the game, I usually introduce a kind of handicap. For example, if we are playing TTR, I'll let them start with 20-50 points. I find this is actually more fun for me, does not impart any illusions to the child, and also allows an opportunity for a child to win based off of their merits.

In my experience, children find these wins satisfying, or even more so because children are more aware of dives then we think. Even worse, my mom would let us win sometimes and when I was a kid I just thought she was bad at games.

All in all, it is good for children to be humbled about their own abilities, and to therefore take great satisfaction once they have improved their skills to earn a win.
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jay
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hestiansun wrote:
brassomason wrote:
marcnelsonjr wrote:


- No quitting.



Wow. How were you able to implement that on the younger ones? I can't imagine how to make a crying child continue to move his meeple.



I'd say the following and then give him the choice:
"Part of playing a game is finishing. If you don't want to finish this game that is ok, but we will not play it again until you are ready."
I did that once with my daughter. She finished, and then we played again.


I don't think he is physically forcing a crying child to play. But if a child's response to losing is to cry, then perhaps seriously they are not ready for that game just yet.

There's a very active thread in this same forum right now that discusses a lot of these issues.
Nonsense, a child is never too young to play Diplomacy.
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K S
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brassomason wrote:
maybe it would be a good idea to try to beat the child every time during his first few plays of a game

YES! Brilliant! Give no quarter!

brassomason wrote:
...and then just slowly ease up a bit on him (play sub-optimally at times or add some handicap rules) on the next games. Thoughts?

shake
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Marc Nelson Jr.
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brassomason wrote:
marcnelsonjr wrote:


- No quitting.



Wow. How were you able to implement that on the younger ones? I can't imagine how to make a crying child continue to move his meeple.



Same as any other rule - negative consequences for breaking it.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Every kid is different. A good parent must take that into account and adjust accordingly.
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lifelesspoet wrote:
Nonsense, a child is never too young to play Diplomacy.


Perfect way for the family to gang up on Dad! laugh

Then, of course, Mom backstabs the kid to pull win!
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I can honestly say my parents NEVER EVER let me win. We would play Speed and each time my mother would win, it was not till I was 7 years old that I won a game of Speed.

Talk about a HUGE upset, I was jumping around with joy cause I had won and I knew I had won on my own fair and square (it was with a 10 of diamonds).

I still remember the first time I beat my dad at Chess, it was in 10 moves

I would ask them about why they would never let me win, and they would say that I needed to learn how to loose and to learn the feeling of truly winning.

I have personally seen how it turns out with children who have parents or sibling that always let them win, they almost always grow up with a chip on there shoulder. Until the world smacks them around then they learn what they should have learned many years earlier that you don't always win.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
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Aleksandra Kuhl
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I have a 6 year old, and I try to go easy first few times with a new game, his step dad on the other hand will destroy him with no mercy.

It makes him upset from time to time, but also proud when he manages to win.
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marcnelsonjr wrote:

- Shake hands and say "Good game" when're done, and there's no gloating or making fun of the loser.


I do this too with my 11y old son.

And yes, I play to win. Of course I don't play games that are too hard for him to actually win but I've been beaten when we play games like King of Tokyo/New York.

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P Santos
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I usually let the kid win for the very first game. Just to develop an interest for playing the game. I've noticed that a lot times I've played the very first game with either kids or adults, if they lose (and I win), they lose interest in the game and don't want to play the game anymore. So I end up with nobody to play.
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Mr Osterman
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You know it's weird but I actually made my son sit on the couch and play Lego: Batman in tears because he wanted to quit. He had gotten to a spot he couldn't figure out how to get past (jumping puzzle) and as he got more and more frustrated he started to get really upset and then insist that the game was just too hard for him and it should go back to the store.

And I said "we don't quit just because something is hard." I made him sit down and we breathed together for a bit. And I handed him the controller and said "try again." And he cried and I said it was okay to be upset and that it was okay to cry but it was not okay to quit. I reminded him that I loved him and that I was there to support him in this challenge, and that I would coach him, but I would not let him give up just because something was hard. And he tried a few more times and he didn't get it, and he got upset and we returned to breathing, and calming and being there.

We kept that up for a while, 20 minutes which I'm sure was an eternity to him, and then he managed the jumps and got to a check point. I asked how he felt and he was still a little upset but maybe the game wasn't too hard for him. We agreed that a break made sense since he had just conquered a challenge and sometimes it's good to take a breather after a touch challenge.

It's hard to balance the line of "this isn't fun I want to stop" and "this is not easy so I want to quit."

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Tony C
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MrOsterman wrote:

It's hard to balance the line of "this isn't fun I want to stop" and "this is not easy so I want to quit."



This is a great differentiation. I have absolutely quit video games that were not fun for me, and never went back to them. I have put aside video games, and solo board games, that frustrated me beyond the "fun" level, to come back later. I will take that approach sometimes, because people can reach the 'wall' and not only are they not having fun, but they're playing worse and worse and getting angry and frustrated.

Only quit a few board games, and that was with mutual agreement among the players - either the game itself was not fun for anyone, or after we got into it we realized it wasn't going to be the experience we expected.

I play to win but not to slaughter, and I'll coach/guide some moves if it's something new. And I don't-win (lose) a decent amount of the time. It seems like my son is less interested in replaying a game he won the first time than one he lost.

Kids (everyone) like to win, but an earned win is much more meaningful.
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Trond Åge Låstad
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I am also a big fan of not letting kids win. That way they appreciate it all the more when they actually DO WIN.

In order to keep playing games fun and interesting for them, just throw in a game with a lot of luck, or an agilitygame where small fingers help every now and again. Some kids also tend to do really well in memory games, so stuff like my first stoneage (while not beeing to fun for grownups), both gives them a decent chance of winning, and helps them develop logical thinking and planning.
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MrOsterman wrote:
It's hard to balance the line of "this isn't fun I want to stop" and "this is not easy so I want to quit."

I've had the same exact experience with both of my game playing age kids when they first started playing videogames. It's amazing what kids are capable of when we raise expectations.

Traitor76 wrote:
I am also a big fan of not letting kids win. That way they appreciate it all the more when they actually DO WIN.

In order to keep playing games fun and interesting for them, just throw in a game with a lot of luck, or an agilitygame where small fingers help every now and again. Some kids also tend to do really well in memory games, so stuff like my first stoneage (while not beeing to fun for grownups), both gives them a decent chance of winning, and helps them develop logical thinking and planning.

Wholeheartedly agree! My approach is to let the nature of the games themselves even the playing field. Dexterity, luck, and memory are often great equalizers, so we play games where the ability to comprehensively analyze the board state isn't the only factor in determining the eventual winner. And when picking the optimal move is difficult I provide suggestions with explanations for why said move could help them win.

Our 9 year old beat me at Star Realms the other day. Again.
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Mr Osterman
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Traitor76 wrote:
just throw in a game with a lot of luck, or an agilitygame where small fingers help every now and again.


What's interesting is that over the last year I've gotten better at looking at games and thinking about what's random and what's determined with an eye to "this has a lot of random to it; it's probably better for the little one" or "wow this game is all strategy and planning, I dont know if he's ready for that."

A year ago I just thought "wow, this game has a fun theme he'll love it" but the more we pay the more I want to keep an eye on those mechanics and their equalizing nature.
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ppsantos wrote:
I usually let the kid win. Just to develop an interest for playing the game. I've noticed that a lot times I've played the very first game with either kids or adults, if they lose (and I win), they lose interest in the game and don't want to play the game anymore. So I end up with nobody to play.


For the reasons other people said, I never let my kids win.

If you want to give them a chance to win, when they're younger you can play kids games that are so random that everyone get a chance. It won't be a good board game by hobbyist standard, but your kid will have fun.

As they get older, you can play more complex games and you can balance it by giving them advice during their turn, warn then before they do a really stupid move.

If you let them win, you fail to teach them how to lose, you fail to teach them what real victory feels like, and you fail to teach them how to be good at the game you're playing.
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Sharon Khan
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Well, my opinion is that most of the time you should be aiming to play games that they stand a good, if not equal, chance of winning anyway. It's no fun for them if they never win because they're playing a game that is too hard for them (difficult when you're playing with children of a wide age range - I play with an 11, 9 and 6 year old, as we don't always want to play down to the 6 year old's level, so he is pushed out of his comfort zone at times).

I don't throw games to let my children win, but I will maybe try out different things, and not play as competitively as with adults. However children learn by copying, and if you make sub-optimal moves to let them win, they'll learn those suboptimal moves - better that you explain your good moves so they understand what you're doing, and give them hints on how to beat you.

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Maik Keller
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I never played wrong or bad to let my child win. Never. And my son loves to play with me. He is very ambitious. He played Drako over 20 times with me and lost every single game. Till he won. Honesty won. He was so proud. And I printed him a t shirt "dragon slayer". So don't let your child win. So he can be proud of his true wins.
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Really interesting point and can make/break gaming love with kids. My boy was playing twizzle card game (pick up 2, pick up 3, shed your hand on suit or colour etc), at age of 3/4 and we made a point of getting him to say 'well done, mum/dad' if we won. Took him a while but we rewarded his gentlemanly behaviour greatly when he started saying it. Kinda reversed the whole 'cheer when win', 'moan when lose' thing.

Mind you, I often throw tougher games in first few games to make him feel good, then turn up the dial until we're level. I genuinely believe this has helped him and ensured we play a lot more together. Also, some games we get totally stupid and start throwing cards at each other - this means play is fun and unpredictable. Last week we got bored playing rhino hero so we smashed the tower and I machine-gunned him with cards like one of the those auto-uno shufflers gone wrong.

Picking games that are clearly too mature/complex is where I can see problems starting. It amazes me the terrible games some parents force their kids to play, and that's why we stocked the shelves with HABA classics, as well as squeezing in Carc, Pickomino, Pick Picnick etc when he asked for them.
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