Here’s a question for any of you who are parents and especially those who are grandparents. Do you let small children win at games? Or maybe a better question is, how far will you bend in order to let them win?
I do observe and obey the section in the grandparent code that says it’s okay, even obligatory, to indulge the grandkids. “Spoiling them,” people tend to call it, though it certainly doesn’t spoil children (or anybody else, for that matter) to let them know they are wonderful, special, and loved.
But I also observe and obey that other important section in the grandparent code—the one that says part of the job is to maintain high standards. To set an example of honesty and be a role model for integrity. To help grandkids learn that wonderful, special children become wonderful, special adults by learning and doing what is right and honorable.
For example, cheating. Now, it’s perfectly sound grandparenting to play a game in a way that allows a child to win. I’ve been known myself to “overlook” a devastating series of jumps in a game of Chinese checkers. I’ve even from time to time—though it was terribly hard—deliberately not played a high-scoring Scrabble word. Even when it would have given me a triple word score.
But allowing a child to cheat? No way.
I remember playing Candyland with a granddaughter when she was four or five. She had won the first game, she was behind in the second game, and I caught her cheating. She moved her purple game piece to a purple spot on the board several spaces ahead of the purple spot it was meant to land on. I made her move it back. She tried to convince me her move had been legitimate. That didn’t work. She tried pouting. That didn’t work. She gave me her best scathing look. I just told her that cheating spoiled the fun of a game and that I didn’t play games with cheaters. She sighed and flounced in her chair. No one can flounce while seated quite as well as an offended five-year-old girl. Then she put her game piece back where it belonged and finished the game with reasonably good grace. And she lost.
I hope she learned something about integrity. I hope, if she ever reads this—and even remembers that particular game—she knows I am proud of her for finishing it.
I also hope she believes me when I say truthfully that my only purpose in that interaction was to help her learn not to cheat. Honestly, I did not intend any benefit for myself. I did not in any way try to influence the decision she made, at the end of the game, to put Candyland away and get out some puzzles instead.
Sometimes virtue is its own reward. Sometimes it offers unexpected collateral benefits. Like not having to sit patiently through 27 more games of Candyland.