At What Age Should You Stop Letting Kids Win at Every Game?

Teaching Kids to Lose Gracefully

The 13-year-old I care for has been complaining about another friend who is a terrible poor-sport. When the teen I care for was moved up in rank at soccer camp his “friend” jealousy gossiped to others that my charge isn’t a good enough player that didn’t deserve to be moved up as a higher ranked player.

Of course these comments are made after the same 13-year-old just recently stormed out of our house when he was losing in a NERF gun war (even four-year-olds don’t cry when playing with Nerf guns)!

So, it has me wondering: when should we stop letting kids win while playing games with them? Is poor sportsmanship created by a family and caregivers that overly indulges a child by letting him win, or is poor sportsmanship a result of extremely demanding caregivers?

I typically allow the three-year-old left in my care to win the games that we play. I think it builds her confidence and self-esteem. But, by letting her win am I missing the opportunity to teach her how to lose gracefully?

In a concerted effort to not create a poor-sport in the future I will be sure to listen more intently on the play-by-play details of the games the kids share with me, rather than asking about the score or who won or lost the game.

I will also be on the lookout for signs of poor sportsmanship. A huge red flag will be anytime a child I care for isn’t enjoying a sport or game anymore because they are becoming too competitive or too focused on whether they lost or won a game.

Encouraging kids to do their best and to keep learning is a good thing. Having fun, improving self-worth, learning about teamwork, and cooperation are more important skills for kids to learn and to carry with them throughout life, than whether they lose or win a game.

Do you let kids win when playing games with them?


  1. I know it’s tempting to let the 3 year old win all the time , but they need to loose too . At preschool they will not always be the winner , so need to set them up so that they can handle it Not have a melt down , so a 75/25 split is better .

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