Should You Let Your Child Win?


An article in Today’s Wall Street Journal tells us that we aren’t really helping our kids if we let them win all the time.  According to the study cited, doing this may give kids a false sense of confidence that could interfere with their learning.  Other research shows that losing at games teaches kids to recover from failure.  So when playing games with your children, or when doing questions with them for homework or test prep, letting them make mistakes and then recover from them may be just the right ticket!

Letting Children Always Win Is a Losing Strategy

by Ann Lukits, Wall Street Journal

False sense of self-confidence can interfere with learning, study suggests

Letting children always win games and competitions may give them a false sense of self-confidence that could interfere with learning, suggests a study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Children who were consistently successful at finding a hidden object in a game deliberately rigged in their favor were less likely to acknowledge the help that an adult had provided than children who found the object some of the time, the study found.

Children who only experienced success may have assumed they had special skills and didn’t require help from others, the researchers suggest.

“We all know situations in which adults try to boost children’s self-esteem by giving every kid on the team a trophy, for example,” lead researcher Dr. Carrie Palmquist, assistant professor in the department of psychology at Amherst College, said in an email. “If children only experience success, they may misinterpret the reason and adopt ineffective approaches to problem-solving and learning.”

Researchers recruited 112 children age 4 and 5 years old for four studies involving 16 to 32 participants. In each study, the children tried to find a hidden toy using clues from two adults. One adult gave accurate information about the toy’s whereabouts, and the other was less helpful.

The games, played on laptops, began with eight practice trials that were rigged so half of the children always found the hidden toy, irrespective of the clues, and half found it only by chance. During test trials, the children were asked to identify which adult they would ask for help in finding the object.

In three studies, children who weren’t always successful selected the helpful person 73% of the time, on average, whereas children who always succeeded chose the helpful person just 50% of the time. A fourth study showed the always-successful children were more interested in the helpful person after experiencing failure.

Caveat: The participants were mostly white and middle class. Being overly confident may also have upsides, in that those children may be more willing to try new challenges, the researchers said.


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