Parenting 101 – Celebrate When Others Win

My parents love to tell the story about the time I demolished our Connect Four game. Evidently, we were enjoying family game night up to the point that my dad cut me off…right when I was about to win. As a kid, I never wanted to lose. So I slammed my next token into the slot with enough force to break the game.

Ironically, this past Christmas my parents gave Anna (my 3 year old) the game Hi Ho Cherry-O! I came home from work last night and Anna wanted to play her new game. If you know anything about Hi Ho Cherry-O you know that the object is to get rid of all the fruit on your tree. Each person takes a turn spinning the wheel and then follows whatever the wheel tells them to do. There is very little strategy in this game but it is great for teaching a 3 year old how to count.

We played several games last night and all of us (my wife, Anna, and I) won at least once. I’m not sure if it was a flashback to my earlier “destroy Connect Four” days or not but I saw the value of teaching my daughter, along with the amazing help of my wife, how to lose well and celebrate when others win. Anna won first and we went crazy clapping, jumping up and down, and telling her how awesome it was that she won. My wife won next and I bet you can guess Anna’s reaction. She had a frown on her face and with a wimper-like voice said, “I want to win!” Like daddy, like daughter. She was disappointed and upset that she didn’t win. It was a great teaching opportunity. I starting doing the exact same thing to celebrate Janie’s win as we had done earlier when Anna won. Anna first looked at me puzzled but then joined in the celebration. We continued our crazy celebration every time someone won, regardless of who it was.

We can all be sore losers. Think about how you felt when someone got a promotion over you at work or the time you should have been recognized for a job well done but the credit went to someone else. How do you respond when your neighbor gets a new car or when your best friend finds the person they will marry before you find the “one?” Life is full of disappointments. Life is full of times when those around you “win” and you don’t.

Our sinful nature tells us that we should celebrate when we win and pitch a fit when someone else wins. If you don’t believe me take a visit to any nursery or preschool in the country. Paul offered this challenge, in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” We do a pretty good job weeping with others as they weep but rejoicing when others rejoice can be difficult. Concerning this passage, Adam Clarke wrote, “Take a lively interest in the prosperity of others. Let it be a matter of rejoicing to you when you hear of the health, prosperity, or happiness of any brother.”

That’s a little bit of what we were trying to teach Anna last night. It was a good reminder for me, too!