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Ask Dr. Mary

Sore Loser

Q. My son doesn?t like to lose in games, and it bothers me to see him so upset. Should I let him win?

A. Even though it?s a hard lesson, children must learn to play by the rules. It?s easier to help your child practice winning and losing in a game around the kitchen table than on the playground or soccer field.

That?s why it?s important to help your child grow through experiences at home. As a preschooler, one of our children repeatedly stomped off when she lost at Candyland. We simply said, "Maybe you?ll win next time, but it was fun to play anyway, wasn?t it?" Even though we tried to shift the emphasis to the process of playing the game instead of winning or losing, Christy found it hard to accept losing. She still does. Now as a college senior, she?s still highly competitive.

Obviously, you can?t change basic aspects of your child?s personality, but you can help him cope with feelings appropriately. If your 5-year-old wildly scrambles all the pieces after losing a game, you might say, "Even though it?s hard to keep playing when you see someone else win, we?re playing to have fun. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. We can still have a good time together. I like being with you. That?s what counts." If your 7-year-old wants to bend the rules when playing a game with her brother, remind her that the guidelines are there for a reason and she can always play again tomorrow. Tomorrow she might win, but win or lose you can all have fun if you?re playing together. If your 8-year-old tries to cheat, talk to him about playing fair and the consequences of right and wrong.

When your child learns to handle the disappointment of defeat at home, he?ll be better equipped to face similar situations in public.

The Best Defense

Q. When I was young, my dad always told me to defend myself if anyone tried to beat me up, and I did. I don?t want my son to be a wimp, but with all the violence in schools now I?m afraid a kid who picks on my son might have a weapon. What should I tell my son to do if someone starts a fight with him?

A. Your son?s school probably has a clearly defined and strictly enforced policy regarding fighting and physical aggression. If there?s any good that has come out of the recent school tragedies, it?s that educators no longer think "That can?t happen here."

Every school I?ve visited recently has posted discipline policies and signs stating zero tolerance toward weapons. Ask your school administrator how he or she suggests students respond to aggressive behavior. Also find out how your son?s school prevents and manages violence and how students who practice self-control are reinforced and rewarded.

To help your son know what to do, I?d recommend the following guidelines:

? If he feels threatened, he should immediately tell a trustworthy adult.

? If your son doesn?t think a problem with another student can be easily talked through, encourage him to avoid that child for the rest of the day. Time and space solve the majority of disputes.

? Encourage your son to talk with you about any unresolved issues. Or see if his school offers peer mediation, a program that uses students to help solve disputes among other students.

You can see that the underlying theme in these suggestions is to encourage your son to use words, not fists, and to avoid unnecessary conflict. The tussle on the playground that seemed so harmless a few years ago may have more serious consequences today. That?s why if your child is hit or pushed, the safest solution is for him to walk away and seek support.

Is Star Wars OK?

Q. I?m a Christian and try to be careful what I allow our 9-year-old son to watch and read. Is it wise to let him watch the Star Wars videos?

A. Developmentally, a 9-year-old knows the difference between fact and fiction. This is an important distinction because it means your son is old enough to understand that "The Force" is only pretend. Still, you might have other concerns about the movie?the strong presence of evil, characters who might scare your son or the violent deaths met by some of the characters.

Where to draw the line on media is one of those judgment calls on which Christian parents seldom agree. So use your own personal parenting filter to determine what?s right for you and your son. Even though I?m not a science fiction fan, I did watch the first Star Wars videos with our son, Matthew, several years ago. In talking with him about the movies, I was reassured that the stories weren?t negatively affecting his walk with the Lord. Now that Matthew is a teenager, he and my husband have had some fairly deep theological discussions triggered by their shared interest in science fiction.

If you decide to watch the Star Wars movies with your son, you might want to discuss some of the following questions afterwards:

  • How is The Force like?and not like?the Holy Spirit?
  • In the original movies, Luke Skywalker overcomes evil by relying on The Force. What problems have you overcome by relying on Jesus?
  • How are the temptations you face every day like the lure of the Dark Side?

As your son gets older, and additional movies are added to the series, you can advance your discussions even more:

  • Can you find bits of other world religions in the Star Wars series?
  • How is the easy path to the Dark Side like the lure of sin?

My husband, a pastor and a science fiction fan, believes that spiritual questions are often played out in science fiction. Perhaps you, too, can use your son?s interest in Star Wars to help him grow in ways you might have never expected.

Mary Manz Simon is an author, speaker and practical parenting specialist. "Front Porch Parenting," her daily radio program, airs on almost 200 stations.

Have a question for Dr. Mary?

Send it to: "Ask Dr. Mary," Christian Parenting Today,
465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
fax: (630) 260-0114, e-mail: cpt@christianparenting.net

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