I let my daughter cheat at cards. Now at first glance I expect you’re wondering why on earth I would do that. Do I want her to grow up unable to deal with the competitive world we are living in? Am I raising a spoilt brat who is unable to get along with others? How on earth will she get on in life if she expects to get everything handed to her on a plate?
Now I must admit, that at first the idea of cheating in games triggered me. I never cheated as a child, whereas my husband told me stories of his own angry strops and cheating. One day I was playing a game of snakes and ladders with my daughter and my husband and they launched into full on cheating tactics, ganging up on me, going up ladders whenever they wanted, and moving me onto snakes. I was shocked at what he’d been teaching her!
At first I was thinking of all those nightmare scenarios I describe in my first paragraph, and then I suddenly realised something. Here was a prime opportunity for some Giggle Parenting; for my daughter to delight in watching me lose.
After all I didn’t need to get all sensible and tell her that we would only play if we played by the rules. I’m the adult. It doesn’t matter to me if I win and lose. I began to see that there was something going on that was much more important than playing the game. It was an opportunity to connect and an opportunity to heal.
All the laughter she has as she cheats is a great way to release stress and tension, and to bring us closer together. This is much more connecting, than having a serious, card game.
When my daughter cheats at cards, I do all sorts of things to get the giggles flowing. I exaggerate my shock and horror when she picks the best cards for her hand, or takes the best cards out of mine. I exclaim ”oh no!” as if I am completely powerless to stop her, when she doesn’t let me put down the card I need to win, or changes her mind about which card she wants to put down. I act completely surprised, in a playful way when I discover she’s been hiding cards, and I put up a pretend struggle when she tries to see my cards, but always let her see in the end.
Far from never teaching her about winning and losing, this gives her the chance to release tension about competitiveness. With a chance to be powerful and strong, a child feels more able to allow their natural co-operative nature to shine through. This actually means that next time your child plays with other children, they’ll be more relaxed about considering other children’s feelings and playing by the rules.
Far from teaching children to just grab what they want whenever they want to, letting them cheat at cards, shows that in this competitive world you are on their side, you are willing to make connection, and flexibility the first priority, rather than trying to ‘teach’ them. They will use this as a model, so they can go out into the world willing to consider others feelings, and be flexible too.
Children have a sense of justice and fairness. They can distinguish between having silly games with parents whose job is to help them with feelings. as opposed having sensible games with other children who also care deeply about winning.
Sometimes big feelings may still get in the way when a child is playing with other children. In this instance it’s good to set a limit about sticking to the rules. You can emphasise and offer hugs, if they feel sad and frustrated, while holding the limit, and staylistening to any feelings that come up. This process of letting a child to cry until they are ready to stop allows them to release the feelings that get in the way of play co-operatively, so that next time they’ll be more relaxed about winning and losing. For more information about staylistening, check out my article here, 10 Reasons Why Your Toddlers Tantrum is Good For Them.
Then when you are alone with a single child, you can have a silly game. Or, if you’d like to try a silly game with multiple children, you can put them in a team together, so they get to gang up on you in a way that allows them to cheat without exacerbating sibling rivalry. I talk more about this idea in my 15 Playful Ways to Solve Sibling Rivalry.
Letting your child cheat at cards, with the accompanying giggles is actually a perfect way release stress and tension, and build closer connection between you, so relax the rules, and enjoy the fun!
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