In a certain type of games, where children are expected to run to a goal point (1) and then to perform something (2), e.g. to run to a bag full of toys and then quickly grab the best toy ahead of the others, my 3.5yo daughter gets the first part "get to the goal point quickly", but after that she stops and does not dare to meddle into a group of kids who are already there and actively snapping up the toys, even though she was one of the first to get to the bag with toys.

After that she waits until everyone is out and then cries because all the "nice" toys are already gone.

Another example is when she was playing a musical chairs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_chairs) and when the music stopped she was closest to the chair, but when she saw other girl who dashed after it, so she just stood in a stupor and could only do was to ask "where is my chair?".

She does not have the problem "fighting" for her toys, for example in a kindy when someone is trying to seize a toy from her hands, she holds tightly on toy while yelling "it is mine, it is mine". The problem as I described it above is more subtle.

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    I can't post a substantially good answer, but as an anecdote, I'm one of the most assertive people I've met and I'll tell you what my parents did. I was always taught to look out for myself above all others and that to me, I should be most important. I was told to be kind to people, but not at my own expense. I really think parenting with this philosophy, whatever the particulars, is how to get confident and assertive children. Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 14:55
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    Perhaps I am missing something, but I am not sure this is a problem. Maybe she just doesn't like the game.
    – tomjedrz
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 5:04
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    my only suggestion is martial arts.
    – DanBeale
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 8:32
  • @DanBeale - can you expand on answer please.
    – user413
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 14:25
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    @Andrew - It's not really an answer, but many people suggest that enrolling a child in a martial arts program gives the child confidence around others; they get to learn respect and rules and also to have fun around others in a controlled environment. That may be a step towards fun in less controlled environments.
    – DanBeale
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


It sounds like your daughter may not have an issue with competitive play, but with being rushed about and pressed on and pushed by a bunch of other kids. Both of the games you mention tend to involve some level of pushing, shoving, and squeezing. If she isn't also having trouble with a foot race or a board game, or other competitive things, then the problem is probably the physical contact.

A lot of kids, for a lot of different reasons, aren't comfortable cramming in like sardines for a chair or a prize, especially when it leads to pushing, shoving, being sat on, etc. At that age, and barring any warning signs that there's some problem afoot, I tend to write it off as a personality thing and not try to change it.

If your daughter seems to lack assertiveness in general or to be reluctant to face competitive situations in general, then you can worry about addressing the issue. Otherwise, you may just have to explain that she can get in with the other kids, or she can wait and have fewer choices. As I assume you aren't breaking piñatas every day, it shouldn't be a huge issue.

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    Great answer. The only thing I can think to add is perhaps you could introduce some rougher play with her and yourself. Tickle fights with some rolling around on the ground might be a good way to introduce her to rougher play, without introduing a significant risk of injury
    – Modan
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 12:31

Why is she having to race to a bag of toys to get "the best one?" in the first place? If she is just having this problem at parties then it really isn't a problem. She just doesn't like these kinds of games. Make sure to play OTHER less competitive types of games at her own party. she can choose to participate at other parties or not.

If this is part of her school's structure, you might want to address it at the school because these kinds of games aren't really appropriate for a three's classroom.

It really sounds to me like she just doesn't like crowds. Perhaps her type of competitive sport when she is older will be singles tennis, it doesn't mean she can't handle a little competition at all. If I'm wrong, please illuminate us with more examples and we can all learn from your situation.

If you are truly concerned about her ability to "stand up for herself" like your other question indicated, Cabbey's answer is a GREAT one.

I would only add as a piece of information rather than advice, that at four (at least in our area) they can be signed up for Martial Arts which not only helps to develop the ABILITY to fight, but confidence in general (for example, the goal of board breaking is simply to develop confidence, to let the child know they are capable of something our brains tell us is impossible). I caution that she should only be signed up for such an activity, if she wishes to be and Martial Arts should not be forced on her in any way.


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