When your preschool-aged kid wants to play Uno, you might feel inclined to let them win. While this is a winning strategy to ending the game more quickly, it might not be the best for helping your children develop crucial decision making skills.

A new study published in ScienceDirect found that kids who won no matter what lacked an important skill. The study involved a scavenger hunt with kids ages four and five. All children received hints from adults, some of which were outright wrong. The twist? Half of the children were set up to win. The others had to play by the rules. Interesting results ensued.

Learning how to find the people who help you win

The scavenger hunt was rigged so some kids would find the objects everywhere they looked. So the hints they received were irrelevant, no matter how helpful or unhelpful they were. The other children had no secret advantages. The rate of their success was left up to chance, meaning the adults offering helpful hints could affect their success.

After the game, all children were asked which adults they'd ask to help them play again. The fake winners had no preference. The others picked the adults who had previously given them helpful hints.

"When children were extremely successful, they seemed to ignore otherwise relevant cues as to who would be a better source of information," the study's co-author Carolyn M. Palmquist says.

Fake success puts kids behind

The researchers concluded that letting your children win is doing them a disservice. A temporary self-confidence boost, yes. But not good for their future success. Because in real life, winning isn't handed to you. It's about strategy and problem solving. If your kids are guaranteed to win no matter what, they'll never learn from their mistakes. "They may become less aware of important information that they could use to learn about the world, because they see it as less relevant to their future success," Palmquist says.

Kids who lose are more likely to adjust their strategy in hopes of winning next time. These are the building blocks of critical thinking, which will serve children well as they experience more complex situations.

So next time you bust out the Monopoly board, remember this: Play the long game, and let those kids lose.

Published on: Nov 4, 2016
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