My soon to be 4-year old son plays car racing games with me on XBOX. Apart from the two of us there are 8 computer racers too.

He can drive well, he knows what to do and he knows we have to win and tries to win (and also thinks that he won the race every time) but he hits the roadside a lot and that slows him down always.

I like to wait for him so he doesn't feel that he is driving all on his own and I don't drive any excitement from playing the game just for myself and beating the computer racers at that, but I am wondering whether that makes him less competitive. Part of me tells me that I should keep racing with computer racers and encourage him to keep trying until he catches up with us because by slowing down every time he is left behind I am making him less competitive and less prepared for real life scenarios.

What should I do?

I have gone through this question but I believe it is not what I am looking for. I am not competing against him one to one, I am one of the 10 racers.

FWIW I am not a games guy and the XBOX belongs to him and he knows it well. Its not that i am a great games player either :D


It’s not that I want him to be competitive from this age, I just don’t want to be a hinderence and end up realising later in life that I nurtured him wrong because I am myself not competitive at all.

4 Answers 4


I think your instincts are good when you hang back. He has 8 other drivers to compete against, but only one daddy who loves him enough to wait for him. A large part of the fun for him may be in feeling that it is something he is doing with you. He and daddy are a team. If you leave him behind it is possible that some of his pleasure may be lost.

My daughter and I play World of Warcraft together. It started a couple of years ago, when I was looking for something I could do with her that would be fun for both of us, not just something I did with her that she liked to do (after waaay too many games of Candyland, Monopoly and Life). She really enjoyed that she could play something with me, although it was difficult for her at first (she has dyspraxia and intellectual disability). But even if she wasn't "good" at it, it was something we could do together. And soon, she was playing it on her own and I was astounded at how far she progressed. It has given her better hand-eye coordination and problem solving skills. She really enjoys it now, even when I am not playing with her.

I think a person's competitive instincts owe more to nature than nurture, but that is extremely debateable. And being very competitive isn't necessarily a good thing. True, it will be more likely to help you win competitions, but it also causes you to make competitions in situations where there shouldn't be. The value of racing as a bonding exercise, IMO, is more than any value that might be found in "stimulating competition" in your son. The world will provide lots of competition. So just relax and enjoy doing something fun with him.


...and encourage him to keep trying until he catches up with us because by slowing down every time he is left behind I am making him less competitive and less prepared for real life scenarios.

You make a couple of assumptions here:

  1. You assume that competitiveness is an important character trait
  2. You assume that what happens in video games has a strong influence on someone's behavior in real life
  3. You assume that it's important that your son starts learning this this when he's three years old.

What should I do?

I'd first give these three assumptions a bit more thought.

Number one is a personal belief; other people have other priorities. So it's not right or wrong, it depends on how important this is to you. But think about what they teach kids in kindergarden and school. Usually, team work is given a lot of room.

Number two is a much debated question, but from what I've read, it seems clear that expressed like this, it's much too simple. Video games do not have such a strong influence on everyone's real life behavior. If they did, we'd be absolutely swamped by teenagers and young men running amok with guns. It seems like what video games mostly teach is fast reaction times and an ability to quickly perceive and prioritize objectives.

Finally, number three gives me a bit of pause. I'd think that at this age, it's much more important for your son just to have you there to play with to develop a range of different skills. These skills range from social skills over emotional development to motor skills. Personally, competitiveness doesn't strike me as something that's very important to develop at age 3 or 4. Also, video games are severely limited in the range of skills they can help develop. Real-life human interaction is much, much more broad.

So I'd forget about thinking what kinds of skills or character traits a computer game will or will not develop, and just use the games for having a bit of fun together. I really wouldn't worry one way or the other about the influence of staying behind with him or racing ahead on his competitiveness. But I'd make sure that video game sessions are, while fun, fairly short (at least at his age), and just one of lots of activities you do together.

  • Thank you for your answer, it is very helpful indeed. I would just like to clarify that this question stemmed from my fear of nurturing him to become not very competitive rather than trying to make him more competitive. Your answer helps. And yes, it is hardly a 15 minute activity every other day Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 3:15

You are playing a game and it's for fun and bonding, don't think too much about it. You don't always have to wait for him, you don't always have to leave him either. Ask him what he wants "Should we be a team, I can wait for you, or I can run and try to get others". Go with your instinct.

Whatever you do, keep an eye on what he's doing by talking and cheering him up. Shout 'Oh no ! Get back on the track !' whenever he hits roadside. It'll show him you care even if you're ahead of him.

If he develops a liking for the game and develops a competitive spirit, he will do better each time. If he gets bored or doesn't improve much, that's okay too, you guys still bonded over something and you are now a better player !


i had rather appreciate you for your efforts. you wait for him at the absence of his knowledge. to day he competes with you, beats you. the next day he feels that if he could his father, probably he could beat number 8 as well. he will do his best to beat number 7 the next day. its true that you don't intend to make him competitive but of course you are filling him with a hope that brings him courage, that pushes him to exceed his 100%. you are filling him with the base of positivity and perfectioning-the-perfects thing. great job. you will see him growing from in very soon.

Even I do play Need for speed with my 5 year old sister. she has got that thing to realise her imperfections at every match and believe me she makes it to her best to improvise in the very next match. these racing games are definitely not "just games"

  • i personally believe video games makes the kids understand every minute details that led to their defeat. they start realising what could have made them win. they gradually start using that thought process in real life. I haven't much games but NFS has been a part of my system for past 12 years. Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 7:31

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