(Editor’s note: Pat Muir is busy, so we dug up this classic Dear Crabby column from February 2016.)
My 5-year-old granddaughter cheats at Candy Land.
I’m not sure how to address this. I try to explain to her that the fun of the game IS the game — strategy, planning, luck — then she moves the arrow to the square she wants to go to and gleefully “wins” the game in two turns, shouting and laughing “I get all the candy, I get all the candy.”
This is OK as long as it is with Grandma (though I think it’d be nice to get all the candy ONCE). But what happens if it is with other small ones, who don’t think playing with a cheater is much fun?
Sweets Turned Sour
I love this question.
I faced a similar dilemma when I went home to Michigan for Christmas and ended up playing numerous games of Sorry! with my nieces and nephews. Well, to be honest, I didn’t face much of a dilemma at all; I just let them cheat because it was the easiest thing to do. I also laughed like an idiot when my nearly 5-year-old nephew took a break from the game to drop his pants and yell “boo-boo butt” while mooning my niece and me. So I’m maybe not the best guy to ask for this kind of advice.
I mean, it didn’t even occur to me that there might be a downside to just letting the kids win. You, on the other hand, actually took a moment to consider which course of action might benefit your granddaughter developmentally. That’s very thoughtful of you.
You can probably tell by my disregard for future consequences that I have not yet become a parent myself. So, in the interest of giving you useful advice, I forwarded your question to my siblings and their spouses. They’re all great parents with great kids, and two of them (my sisters) got back to me before deadline with some thoughts on the matter.
One sister, a pediatrician and therefore an authority on things like this, was pragmatic about it: “As long as kid-cheating makes the game shorter, I’m not calling foul. When kid-cheating prolongs an already marathon session, that’s a different story. Forget life lessons; I’m trying to make it through the afternoon.”
The other sister, a middle school teacher and therefore an authority on things like this, had a different take: “I always tell the kids that their other friends won’t want to play games with them if they aren’t playing fair. When they win fair and square we celebrate, and when they lose we talk about how they can’t win every time and to remember how we acted when they won. Just say no to cheating, especially school age and older.”
I think both answers have merit, and there’s plenty of leeway in the space between them. That is to say, you don’t have to police kids’ games like a pit boss at a casino, but it’s probably good to impart respect for the rules at some point before your granddaughter gets too old. And if that means Grandma gets all the candy every now and then, hey, good for you.
Hope that helps.
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