Sibling rivalry and competitiveness go hand in hand. If you have a competitive child more than likely there will be some fighting between your kids as they compete to be the best. But sibling rivalry and the competitive spirit can ruin family game night. However, there are ways to keep the peace and have fun when playing games.
The Definition of a Competitive Person
A competitive person is someone who wants to be the best. They don’t like to lose. No one likes to lose for that matter, but a competitive person takes losing personally. They may go as far as feeling as though they have failed just because they lose.
Playing games with a competitive person is intense. The drive and toughness for winning they have can interfere with just plain having fun. People that are highly competitive can make what we call “sore losers”. Losing is not an option in their mind. They get so caught up in the game and doing their best that losing is comparable to failure. Being competitive isn’t all bad but it can pose a challenge on family game nights.
I’m a very competitive person. I will admit it. I also have competitive children. My brother is highly competitive too. So game nights are always interesting. Does that mean we are bad or horrible to play games with? No, we still have fun. As I matured I learned that losing is okay. Yes, I still like to win and I don’t go easy on people generally. I just don’t know how.
I gradually learned my limits. There are games I refuse to play. If I play them I just end up angry because I can never succeed, or should I say win. So rather than put myself in that position and potentially ruin family game night, I gracefully bow out and watch the others play.
Sibling Rivalry During Family Game Night
Another part of family dynamics that can make family nights difficult is sibling rivalry. The conquest to be the best between your brothers and sisters is real, especially if one or more are competitive by nature. Sibling rivalry can take a toll and ruin the quality time family night should bring.
How many times have you sat down for a nice family game night just to have the kids start fighting over who gets to go first? Or maybe the squabbling is over who gets to be the dog in Monopoly. If you could see through the screen as I write this my hand would be up high in the air. It never fails, when we sit down to a nice family game generally some sort of fight happens at one point or another.
But don’t be discouraged, there are ways to still enjoy family game night. Even if the kids are prone to fighting just because they each want their own way or because of a sense of competitiveness, game night can still be fun. So don’t throw your hands up at the whole idea just yet.
Encouraging Healthy Competition in Kids
So, if you have read thus far and realized that yes you have a competitive child or person (adults can be competitive too) in the house or you deal with sibling rivalry, know that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You just have to begin teaching them to use their gift, and yes, I mean gift.
Being competitive means they have the drive to succeed. Read that again. They want to succeed. They want to win. Isn’t that every parent’s desire? To raise children who are healthy, happy, and successful when they are adults. So why when they are really competitive do we look at them and think they are doing bad and just need to learn how to be ok being a loser?
Kids need to be taught to lose graciously and learn from their losses. Being competitive and losing gives them the opportunity to see where they can improve. Now, a piece of advice from someone who has a competitive nature, find the teaching moment a little later after the game ended. I wouldn’t suggest trying to talk to your child about be a good loser right after they lost. It probably won’t go well. Wait for them to cool down and then talk about your observations.
On the flipside, they don’t need to be told their competitiveness is bad. That inborn drive should be developed. Compete against them to challenge them. Show them they can be beaten and help them learn strategies to win.
Ways to Keep Family Game Night Peaceful and Fun
If you are ready to take on family game night despite the sibling rivalry or that competitive person there are some things you can do to keep it fun.
Play Age Appropriate Games
There are games out there that just aren’t appropriate for young ages. Some because of the content, but mostly because of the ability to strategize and reason. That’s not to say you can’t try a game out and see if your kids are capable of playing it. We have games that are recommended for ages 10+ that my youngest can play.
But, if you start a game that seems to lose your kids quickly it just may be too much. Don’t try and throw a highly strategic game at a five-year-old. They just won’t get it. On the flip side, your middle school child probably won’t enjoy Candyland all that much.
If you have a wide range of ages play a round of Candyland for the littlest ones, then send them off to play while you play a game with your older ones more suited to their age.
Know When to Walk Away
Knowing when to walk away is key. Family game night is important and fun, but when things go South it can be miserable. Once your dander is going up, it’s time to step away. The whole point of family night is to spend quality time together. You can’t have quality time if there is nothing but tension and anger.
We love Monopoly Gamer, but it is one game that can cause a lot of bickering between my kids. I still recommend it for family game night. However, there have been a few times when my kids got to fighting over little things with the game. When that happened, I told them I was walking away and would be back when they were ready to play without fighting.
Walking away kept me from blowing my top. So, don’t be afraid to let your kids know that if they get to going too much you will get up and leave until they have settled things. Once they settle down and are ready to play without fighting, return to the game. If they don’t quit, find another game to play or put things away until the next family game night.
Find Creative Ways of Determining Characters
As simple as this may sound, it is one thing that kids can fight about depending on the game. Some games like Splendor don’t use character pieces but other’s the character you are can make or break the game.
Take Monopoly Gamer, it is a very fun game but each character has different abilities. They each have a special star power and power up ability. These things can make or break the game, hence why I prefer Mario.
When fights would start because my kids wanted the same Monopoly Gamer character, I took the character cards and mixed them up. I held them under the table, numbering them in my head from 1-5 (we had the original four and a power up pack). The top card being number one. I would then I have one of my kids pick a number. The card matching their number was who they got to be.
This helped resolve the inevitable squabbling over them wanting the same character. However you decide to do it, just keep it fair. Get creative in having them randomly choose who they are going to be if they can’t pick without fighting.
Change Up Who Goes First
Every kid wants to be the one getting to go first. But having the same kid starting every game can lead to many fights. So don’t be afraid to switch it up. You pick who gets to start. If Johnny started Monopoly Gamer last night, let little Susie start Skip-bo the next time.
We have games that specify the youngest goes first. But that led to conflict because our oldest wanted turns at being first and rightfully so. Now we roll and high number to goes first. Other times we have the kids pick a number between one and ten. We do occasionally have our youngest start, but usually, we leave it to chance.
Keep It Fun
Family game night should be fun. If it’s not, find another game to play or another activity to do together. Make sure you are playing games everyone likes. Take turns picking the game so that everyone gets a chance to play their favorites. There is nothing worse than always having to play the same game over and over because one family member is always dictating what you play.
Family game night doesn’t just have to be board games. If your kids are young and it’s nice outside, play an outdoor game. As spring began, my youngest has been outside playing basketball quite a bit. We have spent quite a bit of time shooting hoops, playing knockout, trying to win at around the world. It’s a great active way to spend time together. You could also play a favorite video game. Have a MarioKart tournament. Just get a little creative and plan something fun for everyone.
If you want to take game night to the next level you could always make a concession stand or have pizza while you play. It just ups the ante if you take it to the next level with dinner and snacks.
Allow Some Competition
Not all competition is bad. Competition can keep a person on their toes. It drives them to do their best. Something we should all want, to do our best. But on family game night it can lead to one person trying to one-up the other and inevitably, fights. Still, having a little competition is a good thing, even during game night.
Competition keeps things fun. After all, the whole point of a game is someone trying to win, to do better than another. Can you imagine Football without competition? It would be downright boring. The same holds true with board games. They would be downright dull if there was no competition. The biggest thing is to not let things get out of control. If you do, sibling rivalry will rear its ugly head and the game won’t be any fun.
The other day, we were playing Monopoly Cheater’s Edition. It was a lot of fun and I was being very competitive with it. The whole premise of the game is to get away with cheats. My oldest is a spitting image of me. She is highly competitive. So as we played I watched her like a hawk. But it made the game fun. We weren’t fighting. We were just having a good time.
So a small amount of competition makes the game fun. Don’t be afraid to let your kids try and win. Take the opportunity to teach them how to be a good loser when things don’t go in their favor. But if they start getting out of control with how competitive they are being, don’t be afraid to stop the game.
Play Team Games
Team games seem to be a good option to take strife out of family game night. Some of the best board games I’ve played take teams. Pictionary, Sequence, and Codenames Disney are a few that are team games.
Make sure to team up a parent with a kid. Putting the kids on the same team could lead to disaster unless you know they will get along well. But if the team is a parent and kid some of the sibling rivalry can be eased. Now, mind you, there will still be some competitiveness. Competing isn’t a bad thing unless it leads to fighting.
Some games that are every man for himself lead to fighting because one kid feels the other targets them. In the team game arena, it’s a team targeting the other team so it makes things less personal.
Make Family Game Night the Highlight of Your Week
Family game night can be one of the best parts of the week. It doesn’t have to be full of anger, strife, and frustration. Allow your kids to learn life lessons of how to resolve conflicts when sibling rivalry comes up. Show your competitive kids they can lose and it isn’t a form of failing but a learning opportunity. Make your next family game night one to remember for the fun you have rather than the fights.