I’m a Cheater

I'm a cheater

I need to let you know that I love board and card games.  And I’m competitive.  Like really competitive.  As long as you are an adult (or worthy adversary), I play hard, I play by the rules and I (might) talk smack.

But nearly every day I see speech kiddos I cheat.  Like change the rules mid-game, stack the deck when you’re not looking, “special” cards hidden in my lap kind of cheat.  What happened to me?!

When my kids were young, elementary aged, we played games all the time and even had a standing “Friday Night Game Night” at our house which required participation of anyone who was there.  If it was a game of luck, we played and let the wins/losses fall where they may.  (There were often some tears on game night.)  If the game required more strategy, I played, maybe not my hardest, but certainly with enough aplomb to make sure any non-me win was earned.

According to psychologists, this is actually the recommended course.  During the preschool years, cooperative games are generally best (I love the Peaceable Kingdom ones) and it’s more about learning turn-taking.  The idea of winning v. losing rears its competitive green head around Kindergarten and this is where you need to start letting them both win AND lose.  It’s a time to work on being a gracious loser and a gracious winner.  (Despite my competitive nature, I am a gracious loser and winner.  Unless you are related to me.)

But in my therapy room, I never win.  Never.  I’ve even had kids ask, “Have you ever won a game before?”  I wonder if they think I’m crying at night or maybe they worry about my competency.  As an aside, in the picture above, I even lost to both Potato Heads.  Yes, I (the child) beat you (me).  She beat me and he beat me.

Cheater game shelf

Now, I’m working primarily with elementary aged kiddos.  I might not be so accommodating if I had older students.  But here’s my rationale.  The kiddos I see are getting pummeled in the classroom all day with other students’ hands shooting up faster and with bulletin board displays of work in which theirs is not always up to par.  (They are aware—they tell and show me.)  Some of them don’t have many friends or many opportunities to play games and win.

I figure if life is currently handing them plenty of losses to navigate, shouldn’t I tip the scale on the win side?

cheater Spot it

Granted, I’m often skewing the game in my clinical favor—“You landed on ‘lose a turn?’  Say ‘radio” five times and I’ll let you out now.”  Or, on games like Go Fish, I let them take an additional turn if they get a pair, but the rule doesn’t apply to grown-ups.  Suits me—they end up saying ¾ of the cards/words that way.  Sometimes my misarticulations or inability to answer a language question prevents me from moving forward.  Can you guess who had to provide the correct answer for me?!  I’m pushing my students firmly forward in deficit areas; I guess I’m also hoping a win will ease the sting of that discomfort.

(I also have an unbelievable knack for choosing/creating/modifying games so they last almost to the end of our session.  You too?!)

I have a hunch I’m not the only SLP throwing games left and right, but I’m curious to hear your opinion.  Do you play to win or throw games as often as I do?  Are we doing irreparable harm?  And if you have an extra special, super secret cheating technique, please let me know!



This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Speechie

    I could have written this myself! When my kiddos’ extra turns are obvious or I change the rules, I explain they earned it and remind them that when they play with friends, their friends will probably not play this way, and to always agree on the rules beforehand. My kiddos always walk away feeling their win was legit, however they have to be prepared for differences in game play and for the “real rules” on which peers insist.

    1. admin

      This is a wonderful point and something I need to be more clear about–“speech rules” vs. peer rules. Thanks for adding on! Kim

  2. Susan

    I typically let the kids win. If we are playing go fish I keep my pairs in my hand. I stack the deck with other games. I act dumb when we play Spot It. I love the idea that they can get extra turns for saying extra words.
    We play a quick game of Garbage at the end of the session and I forget to use the King as wild and move it, or forget to play the 3 where I need to.
    I was so bad I told a kid I needed to practice at home, but all I had at home was a cat.. The student said ‘the cat will win’.

    1. admin

      The cat! I LOVE this! Kim

  3. Jill T.

    I used to always let kids win, but not anymore. After having several kids come unglued when they didn’t win when we were playing in a small group instead of just the student and myself, I felt like I was actually doing them a disservice. They will not always win at everything they do in life… whether you have speech and language difficulties or not, you won’t always win. My students definitely win more than I do, that’s for sure. I do, however, make it to the times that I do win, I am not absolutely killing them… it’s usually really close. I have found that since I don’t always let the kids win, they seem to have stepped up to the plate, pay more attention or try a little harder (because they may be rewarded with things such as an extra turn for saying extra words or by coming up with a very creative answer, etc). I have found that since I no longer let the kids win every single time that when I do bring in a group of students (which I do once a month to practice their skills we’ve been working on individually with a group of their peers), I am not having the meltdowns when they don’t win every time and they are learning how to be good winners AND good losers. Regardless of who wins, I always stress at the end that each of them are winners because they used their XX sound correctly or they answered the questions with good supporting details without my help, etc.

    1. admin

      Thank you for sharing–wonderful thoughts and it certainly makes me think about my own “habits.” Kim

  4. Mia McDaniel

    I love this so much!! You just put into words what I have always done nearly unconsciously. This post just made me smile, Kim. It also REALLY made me want to play a board game with you – no holds barred- and I can take the trash talking. With my older kids I do win sometimes (sometimes even when I’m trying NOT to and I hate when that happens). And YES, I can modify/stretch/bend/prolong/cut short any game known to man to fit exactly within the time of any session. That’s a valuable talent right there, young lady! That should be required to get into any decent grade school program. Glad to be among your company 🙂

    1. admin

      Bring it!

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.