I'm the 31-year-old mother of a 7-year-old girl. My 27-year-old-husband and I take our daughter to the park on weekends and holidays.

A few weeks ago, she wanted me to take on my husband in a game of badminton while she kept the score. We complied since we are both quite fond of the game. My husband won easily and I gave him a congratulatory kiss. My daughter was terribly upset with her father for not letting her Mamma win a single set and with me for kissing someone who had beaten me. She didn't talk to either of us for an hour.

• My daughter has this bizarre notion that 'pretty' women should always win. I have no idea how to dispel this misconception of hers.

• My husband wants to race with me when we go swimming this week. I would love to compete with him, but I am afraid of my daughter's emotional outburst if I lose (which is more likely). Should I go ahead with it?

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    Have you discussed the outburst with your husband? What are his thoughts? – Calvin Smythe May 30 at 15:56

I agree completely with both previous answers; I do have a little bit to add, though.

My daughter has this bizarre notion that 'pretty' women should always win. I have no idea how to dispel this misconception of hers.

This is a very destructive idea. Hopefully it will go away soon, but it doesn't hurt to work on it.

Pretty is pretty, and nothing else. It doesn't make anyone better at anything or entitle anyone to anything. It's meaningless to self-confidence because the definition of pretty changes over time, and we have no control over it. It's no different than saying someone should win because they wear a size 7 shoe. Start teaching her critical thinking skills, to question the things she believes until she finds truth which is acceptable to all of you.

I would also teach (and model) gratitude. Not only has gratitude shown to correllate with improved health (mental and physical), but it's a great coping mechanism for people who compare themselves with others and come up short. To take simple (and extreme) examples, I could either wish for the impossible (that I was as good at tennis as Serena Williams, as smart as Einstein, as talented as... etc.) or I can be grateful that such people exist, to show us what wonderful capacities exist in humans. (The first approach is a no-win situation, the second is an inclusive, win-win situation.) Because there will always be people who are better than us in any given thing, and gratitude is so much better than envy or disappointment.

In kissing your husband, you were in effect showing gratitude for his skill and the fun you had, and you were happy. In contrast, she was unhappy for an hour. That can be a starting point for discussion, because everyone over the age of 3 knows that happy is way better than sad.

My husband wants to race with me when we go swimming this week.I would love to compete with him, but I am afraid of my daughter's emotional outburst if I lose (which is more likely). Should I go ahead with it?

Absolutely, and be happy for the winner.

Giving thanks can make you happier
Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration

I'm not a parent, but I can relate to your daughter's behavior somewhat. At least, I believe that there may be another underlying reason for her emotional response to seeing you lose to her father (or a man).

In a way, you are her role model and she looks up to you. You set the standard for what she can achieve in the future. You stand no chance against a man in a competition - so she also never will?

Some things to teach her:

  • If there are activities in which you are better than your husband, she could also watch you win from time to time. Everyone has their individual strengths (some may not even be measurable in a competitive setting but are no less important).
  • Explain that these are just fun activities and winning is not so important to you (two). Context matters if you are just playing with your husband in a park, or against a(nother) professional athlete for the Olympic gold medal. Maybe you can add activities that allow her to participate more (than just keeping score), so she feels it herself.
  • Talk to her about it. It seems you tried to and the result was her voicing the notion that "'pretty' women should always win". How you approached it is unclear, so maybe you could try a different one. Be understanding, not judging. Ask her, what angers her so much, maybe help her with leading questions if she doesn't know how to express her feelings. And maybe ask her also what she would like to see changed - perhaps it's something somewhat different, like her feeling excluded or wanting to engage in other activities, and not just that she doesn't want you to lose to her father.

I've seen the same behavior from my female cousins when I was growing up. Where they got the notion was from just some random childlike conclusion jumping thinking. Just don't let her keep believing that into adulthood for her sake when she inevitably loses.

For my cousins to behave the way they do now (about 26) was caused by large amounts of neglect. I would say just go ahead and show her that you can be still be 'pretty' and not have to win everything. Or (better yet) "maybe daddy deserves to be pretty sometimes too." conversation will do the trick:D either way I'm sure she will grow out of it.

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