We all want children to be successful, right? Well, what skills are attributed to people that are successful? That, in part, is determined by your definition of success; but if you define a successful adult as a person that is adaptable, able to problem-solve, is socially savvy, and has healthy self esteem. Of course there are a hundred other definitions that can be applied, but we have to start somewhere. In an article titled “7 Winning Character Traits That Create a Lifetime of Success” by Shamelle Perera, these traits are; No Fear of Failure, Winners are Doers, Self Discipline, Persistence, Learn From Mistakes, Accept Responsibility, and Adapt an “I can” Attitude.
I doubt that many would argue with these basic categories of traits that are important to being successful in attaining your goals, whatever they may be. Many other traits that you might think of would probably be similar or would be a sub-category of those listed.
Well, that being said, let’s look at how playing games help us, especially children, develop these traits, hopefully while having a really good time.
No Fear of Failure
Wow! That’s easy for a 2 or 3 year-old, but after children understand social status and social rules, failure becomes a pretty big deal and is often avoided more and more vehemently as a child ages. Failure is not seen as part of a process in our society, it is portrayed akin to death; a final state to be avoided at all costs. What our society doesn’t encourage is learning from failure, which is often the most valuable kind of learning. Understanding that each failure of shortcoming is a unique opportunity to learn how to do or NOT do something is very valuable. This attitude changes every “failure” into an opportunity for learning and success.
Providing a fun atmosphere for playing many kinds of games is a valuable service to your children. Demonstrating what a gracious looser acts like is important, as is carefully assuaging growing egos that want to perform, win, and impress you. Ask children what they think they did wrong in a game and ask what they will do differently next time, and make sure to recognize efforts and progress.
Winners are Doers
Have you ever played a game and gotten to a no-win situation, and just wanted to leave the room? Well, that can be a very difficult place for anyone, and especially children. Admit that sometimes there are no-win situations in life, but that not choosing to do anything just stalls any forward motion or growth. Not finishing a game should not usually be an option.
I don’t know about you, but I know many adults that are still working on this. Waiting for your turn, following the rules, not cheating, loosing graciously – all of these can take tremendous self-discipline in children. Encourage these behaviors by displaying them, recognizing them, and expressing gratitude for their implementation. Recognize that it can be very difficult and support children as they develop this essential trait of success.
This is another quality that you don’t have to encourage in 2 and 3 year-olds. However, when children learn that quitting is OK, they often opt out when things get difficult, boring, or complicated. Persistence is key to success. Think of all those famous inventors, sports pros, and business leaders. They are famous because they were persistent in pursuing their goals, no matter what life threw at them. Help your child weather the rough times without babying them. When they have lost every game in a sports season, or can’t seem to win a chess game with their cousin, or are always last in the neighborhood foot race, they often want to give up, move on, try something else. While finding what you excel at is important, learning to “stick it out” is also key to creating success.
Learn from Mistakes
See “No Fear of Failure” above. Mistake can be broken down into two words: Miss Take. Think of the movies and how many takes are sometimes needed to “get it right”. So you have to do it over again – great! You now have an opportunity to do it even better. Children often have very high expectations for themselves. Help them understand that learning is of more importance that being right or winning through your example and emphasizing opportunities more than “wins”.
There is a reason the saying “Cheaters never win” developed. Breaking the rules just to get ahead is not OK, both in games and in life. Bending rules to give other people a chance….well, that’s a little different. Show that you can, literally, accept the cards life deals you by making the very best of it. Displaying an accepting attitude for children to observe and emulate is vital if you want them to value and adopt this trait.
Adapt an “I can” Attitude
This is yet another area that most 2 and 3 year olds need no coaching in. Those of you that are raising them understand. Sometimes finding out how you “can” can be a long journey, but it is often worthwhile. Showing your child support in what they want to accomplish can be difficult when you don’t agree with their goal, or you don’t understand why it is important to them. Think about when you really want to do something. Don’t you seek support from those you love and trust? Give the gifts of hope, optimism, confidence, and acceptance regardless of outcome to your child.
All of these traits can be nurtured, encouraged, and developed through playing a large assortment of games; card games, word games, team sports, board games, strategy games, role games – you name it! And remember, it’s called a game because it’s also supposed to be FUN!