When playing games against my own kids (sports, cards, board games), I am never sure how competitive should I be.

I am asking this regarding to two issues: level of play and rules observance.

Level of Play: Should I play my best even if this let's no chance my daughter to winning? At her current age, I can consistently beat her in chess in 5 to 10 moves. She has other friends, siblings, and cousins she also plays with.

Observance of rules: My other daughter sometimes does unfair or untrue claims regarding the game and the rules in order to win. Should I show forgiveness. For example when playing soccer she can claim the ball left the bounds of the field while it clearly did not.

In computer games, which I also like to play with my daughters - there is no place to disagree on the rules or how they apply, but the first issue of level of play is still there.


2 Answers 2


I'd say the basic premise is to always encourage progression.

Stage 1 is to ensure they can do the basics - can they dribble and pass a football or do they know how each chess piece can move? For example, my infant son can't control his direction of travel whilst dribbling a ball, so I ignore the boundaries of the pitch.

Stage 2 is for you to demonstrate additional skills or tactics (mini-drills - in or out of game). Say things like, "look if you take my pawn this turn, you'll be able to move towards check next turn" to expose them to the basic tactics of the game. With football(soccer) this could be you demonstrating the specific part of the foot to kick with to shoot in the air or keep the ball along the ground.

Stage 3 is to provide (obvious) scenarios for your child to use those techniques. If they don't seem to take advantage, go back to stage 2 (for that element). With chess, this could be always opening yourself up to "fool's mate" until your daughter spots it and capitalises. Likewise with football, if you're in goal, leave your legs wide open to see if your child realises they can kick through your legs.

Stage 4. Once you know they have a reasonable arsenal to use against you, up your level of play to become more competitive. It's usually fairly easy to gauge when a child is getting frustrated, so avoid working them too hard. Try to keep most of the play fun for them, pushing their boundaries occasionally (depending on their age and temperament). The level can vary as they start to improve, but ideally you should let them reap the benefits (win) when they start to make leaps forward.

When they can genuinely compete, do so (Stage 5). Just remember that being a good sport / losing every so often will make you more fun to play with and will probably help to hold their interest longer-term. Even as an adult, there aren't many people who continue with an activity if they always lose against their friends - if you're obviously better you have nothing to prove.

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    +1 for suggestion of coaching as you play. The object is not for you to win, it is for you to help them improve. Be good enough to challenge them but it is okay to let them win occasionally, especially if it is you who coaches them to their win. When I play chess with my 12 year old I will now give him a single warning "Are you sure you want to do that?" to give him the chance to catch his error and if he chooses "yes" I explain to him what he did wrong as I make my move. Sep 23, 2015 at 17:46

I agree mostly with @Mikaveli but I would like to show another point of view based on my own experience (I cant comment yet so I answer).

When I was a child my father and me played chess, soccer, videogames... But I always felt he was not doing his best. This annoyed me because I wanted real challenges (which he could have given me) but even with him playing hard I always had the doubt about if he could have done better. This attitude (with I understand, as I have a daughter now) made me play in a "relaxed mode" I did not enjoy.

In the end, I think the important thing here (and the most difficult thing) is to have a balance between being a teacher and a challenge but first, you may need to know what kind of game your kid wants in that precise moment (I recognise I love challenges but my sister played for relax and amusement mostly) because there will be different learning stages, moods, situations...

I hope I have been helpful ;-)

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