My five year-old son has started this phase of turning everything into a contest. Partially this a result of our encouragement. We will sometimes "race" him when he is dragging his feet and slowing down the family. However, I think some of it is fueled by his friends at school, because he's started some unsportsmanlike behavior, like singing "I beat you, I beat you, na na na na naaa naaa."

We've been correcting his unsportsmanlike responses, but I'm wondering if we should be looking deeper. In a lot of the cases, he only wins because one of us has helped him, or because he has two years more experience than his sister, but he doesn't recognize that. For example, we "beat" my wife to church yesterday, but only because she helped all the kids, including him, get ready before she took care of herself.

So my question is, should we burst his bubble about his "winning," or should we let him think he's won and just continue to teach him to be sportsmanlike about it? We do make a point to praise him for wins due to his legitimate efforts, or even failures if he tried his best.

My question is related to Should you let a toddler win?, but different in that I'm not wondering whether to let him win, but to what degree we should point out when winning had little or nothing to do with his individual effort.

  • My 5-year-old is in a similar phase right now. I have no suggestions on fixing the behavior, just wanted you to know you're not alone!
    – Meg Coates
    Mar 26, 2013 at 3:18

1 Answer 1


All children go through a phase of 'gloating' at some point. I think your idea of teaching sporting behaviour is the right approach.

We did this with our kids-when they were young they all had phases of gloating about winning, but we educated them to behave in a sporting manner and backed off on letting them win so they began to get approval from us for winning through their own efforts, and just for trying their best.

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