Reasonable Expectations

G is having trouble with the concept of contests and drawings.  He is old enough to understand that he is doing an activity where a prize will be awarded.  But he is not capable of understanding that he may not win the prize.  He thinks it is guaranteed that he will be the winner and when he isn’t, he is crushed.  For example, his school uses a positive motivator for good behavior by having the teacher give out tickets if a child has had a good day.  The child writes their name on the ticket and puts it in a box in the secretary’s office.  On assembly day, they have a drawing and a handful of students get prizes.  G was absolutely certain he would be winning a prize on assembly day, even though we did our best to talk about how only one or two people would win and it probably would not be G that won.  Luckily, G was sick on assembly day and we dodged that bullet.  I have never been so grateful that G was sick! 

We were not so lucky last night.  We went to the PTSO Fall Festival and had a great time.  G did very well with the chaos and absolutely loved all the little games that were set up.  He was particularly excited about the cakewalk, which I put off for last.  Finally, it could be put off no longer, G did the cakewalk and did not win a cake.  He looked baffled.  I was able to distract him with cotton candy and shortly after we left for home.

On the drive he started getting upset that he didn’t win the cake.  He kept going over the details of the event; he waited for the music to start, he walked in circles on the squares, when the music stopped he stopped too, and the person on the square next to him won the cake.  He decided that next time he would knock the person on the winning square over and take their cake. 

When he got home, he grabbed his crayons and started drawing industriously.  He created a duplicate cakewalk in his playroom and had me turn the music on and off.  We played until he won and I gave him some goldfish crackers as a prize, hoping this had satisfied him.  But it didn’t.  The poor kid woke up at 1am crying with huge gut wrenching sobs.  I laid with him the rest of the night and he would quiet down for a little bit and then start up with the sobs again.  Neither of us got much sleep and in desperation I promised we would bake a cake this morning and would play cakewalk until he won his very own cake.

I know this isn’t the right answer because it reinforces his need to win every contest, but it was 3:30am when I made the promise and I was truly desperate.  What should I do to help him with this?  I was joking with hubby that we should start playing the lottery so G could see us handle not winning.  Hubby says with our luck, we’d win the jackpot the first time and G would be screwed up for life.  Has anyone been through something similar?  Thoughts or suggestions will be sincerely appreciated.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is probably the hardest lesson ever to be learned. I am still teaching it…

    The heartbreak is almost too much, isn’t it?

  2. My Little Man doesn’t “get” competition either. He goes into a rage if he doesn’t win Chutes and Ladders every single time. I HATE playing games with my kid. (Um, if I’m honest, I hate losing almost as much as he does)

    I think you did what any mom would have done at that time of night. Or any other time, actually. Who wants to see their kid suffer because they can’t understand something?

    Sorry you’ve hit a(nother) rough spot. They stink, huh?

    Hang in there!

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