One of my biggest fears in life is that my daughter is not going to be a nice person when she's all grown up. I shudder at the thought of my sweet caring little girl being an absolute jerk to someone and not giving it a second thought. Of course there is nothing I have seen yet to indicate that this is going to be the case, and I take every opportunity to teach Miss K about being considerate and thoughtful, but human nature means we're all jerks sometimes. And I was a jerk this week.
A lot of Miss K's time these days is spent preparing for school next year. Kindergarten is teaching her the education side of things, and the social side of things, but it's still my job to teach her basically everything else. I assumed that teaching children to be good sports would be included in her learning at kindergarten, but either the opportunity has never come up before, or Miss K has never shown that she needs the lesson there. She's never really shown me before this week that she needed it either, but I found out this week that she is quite happy to gloat when she beats someone, and I wasn't ok with it.
Part of this problem will have come from me. I have always encouraged a healthy interest in competition in Miss K, as I feel it is necessary to get ahead in life. But because she is only five, I let her win a lot when we compete against each other. (Except when it comes to running, she beats me fair and square when we race, I'm just too chubby and lazy to really run.) So Miss K has a confidence that she can win with ease thanks to me. Now I know that confidence is key, but too much confidence leads to arrogance, and I don't want my child to be a fat head. So I've slowly started winning more and more, just to teach her that winning isn't always guaranteed, but that just makes the wins she does get bigger in her mind. And with her new victories came gloating.
Miss K and I were bored the other night so we decided to play a few board games for an hour before bedtime. We started with Kerplunk, which I've had in our games cupboard for years now, but we've never played so I was excited to introduce her to a game I loved as a child. (We even had a Star Trek version because my big sister is a giant nerd.) I won each game, but the longer we played, the harder I had to work for my victories, as Miss K got a feel for the strategy that is Kerplunk. This is where her sense of competition was good. She was happy to lose, but she learned from her losses and used that lesson to bridge the gap between us in each new round. Eventually we got bored with having to reset the game each time so we swapped to Hungry, Hungry Dinos (Yeah, yeah I know that's not the real game, but board games are expensive OK?) Now Miss K was in her element. She loves quick fire games and beat me hands down every single round. I wasn't letting her win either, these were real losses for me. I was impressed by her performance until she started calling my dinosaurs losers.
I was shocked by her attitude, I've never gloated around her as I find that behaviour really off putting. I tried the Mike Brady method of lecturing her on the dinosaur's feelings. (Yet another in a long list of bizarre conversations I've had to have with my daughter.) I let her know that it isn't nice to point out that someone is a loser if they don't win a game, and using words like that can hurt someone's feelings. She agreed with me and I thought the matter was settled, but she went back to calling the dinosaurs losers straight away. So Mike Brady lost round one. I decided it was time to lead by example, and this is where I became a jerk.
It's like the old lesson we used to teach our children when they learn how to bite, if they bite us, we bite back. (Of course I don't condone biting your children, please don't bite the kids.) But if you want a kid to know how something feels, you let them experience it. So I swapped the game to one where the odds were stacked in my favour; We had thumb war. (Another throwback to my own childhood and the many thumb wars I had with my big sister where she usually beat me easily.) I won the round of course, and then I proceeded to do a victory dance (which may or may not have included a song calling Miss K a loser).
Yeah, yeah, I know, I was a huge meanie. I can only imagine how many of you are burning up with rage right now, but Miss K got the point straight away. She now knew how it felt to be called a loser, and she knew how horrible it felt. Now you may think I overreacted, she was insulting a plastic moulded toy that is unable to feel emotions or even hear her words, but that wasn't the point. One day she is going to play sports with other children who do have ears and feelings that can be easily hurt, and I don't want her to be the jerk gloating over winning a stupid game when it actually matters. I reiterated how words can hurt feelings, and we talked about the correct way to behave whether you win or lose, and we finished our match by telling each other "Good game".
So while I don't officially condone calling your kids losers, or gloating around them, or deliberately beating them at games, sometimes you have to be a jerk to prove a point. Hopefully my daughter now has a better sense of humility, and will be more gracious with her wins and her losses. Or one day I'll get a huge bill from a therapist for all the damage I'm doing as I stumble through being a parent. Only time will tell.
I would love to hear about any other parents out there who have had similar ethical dilemmas that they solved by being less than perfect. Hit me up in the comments down below and let me know how much you now pay for therapy per month. I get the feeling I'm going to need to start a savings account very soon.