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4 year old - too competitive

(12 Posts)
snotfunny Sat 16-Mar-13 09:32:40

Please help. I have a major problem with my 4 year old DSS. I have two children of my own - a DS of 7 and a 13 month old DD. My DSS is with us from Wednesday to Friday every week.

DSS has always been quite a dominant character. His mother lives with his grandmother, her husband and his Aunt. He spends every weekend with his grandfather and his wife. In short, he has a lot of adults in his life and not many children. Everywhere else he spends his time, he is the absolute centre of attention.

My home is very different. My parents and my partner's parents are a long way away. When he is at my house, he is one of three children. Usually, he loves this. He adores his baby half-sister and my DS is just his favourite person in the world - he idolises him and my DS is very fond of him too. In some ways, it is a lovely set-up and we all have a fantastic time together - most of the time.

The problem is that DSS is super competitive. We have had to stop him from playing any games or having races where anyone is the winner, because he can't cope with it. He has started turning every little thing into a competition. Who is first through a doorway (!), who is first into bed, who is first to eat his dinner...etc. My DS plays no part in this. He is a very laid back character and isn't that interested, so it doesn't bother him when DSS proclaims himself the 'winner' all the time.

The problem is when DS inadvertently 'wins'. This happens sometimes because he is older, faster, more co-ordinated...etc. He went up the stairs first the other day and it caused world war 3 in the house. DSS was so angry that he started kicking things and throwing toys. Then he bit me while I was putting him into time out. Even after he had calmed down and I asked him to apologise he said sorry for biting me, but wouldn't apologise for having the tantrum because it was DS's fault for beating him going up the stairs.

I don't know how to teach him that not everything is a competition and that he can't win all the time. Any attempt to explain always ends in the same circular conversation in which DSS keeps repeating 'but, I want to win everything'.

Please give me some ideas because it's making me dread DSS coming to stay and that is awful. I have also considered sending DS to his fathers when DSS is here until he grows out of this phase because it's just so miserable for everyone - particularly DSS, who must hate being so angry and upset.

However, I have spoken to his Grandad and he said that it has happened a couple of times at his house too, when they have played a game and DSS didn't win. We need to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

snotfunny Sat 16-Mar-13 13:21:36


exoticfruits Sat 16-Mar-13 13:42:54

All children find it difficult to lose and it is especially difficult if they are an only and people let them win. I still remember being 11yrs and 4 of us were playing monopoly and the friend whose board it was picked up the board in the middle of the game and said she was going home! She had much older siblings and it was obvious that she was used to winning. It didn't go down well with the rest of us!
If you are speaking to the grandad I would mention the problem and that if they are playing games they need to play properly-obviously you don't use adult skill against them but you shouldn't cheat to lose.
Firstly I think that you have the advantage because DS is older and sensible and DD is too young to take part.
I would stop the 'first to get up the stair' type thing. Just say firmly 'we are fed up with that game and no one is taking part' -so if DS 'wins' just all look baffled and make out you don't understand what it was about. If he then explains just say in a bored tone 'I thought you knew were were not doing it and more'. If he throws a tantrum go out of the room and leave him to it. Ignore totally, other than to say 'we can talk when you calm down'. When he does calm down ask him what on earth it was all about? Why does he think it matters who comes first? etc If he says he wants to win at everything just say 'don't we all!grin
Games are more of a problem-they all want to win at that age. It takes maturity to lose well. I would sit him down first and explain that if he wins all the time it is because people let him win and where is the fun?Wouldn't it be better to lose sometimes and know that when you won you really did win?

He is of course in a difficult position-not only is he the middle child but he is the part time child middle child. Do you do much with him on your own, without DH and the other DCs? Does DH do much with just the two boys?

exoticfruits Sat 16-Mar-13 13:44:56

Sorry about the mistakes-hope it still makes sense.I should proof read.

MaryRobinson Sat 16-Mar-13 18:40:31

You know losing is part of life, and losing and indeed winning graciously is a pretty important skill.
Your DSS could be told - no this is not a competition; and equally importantly if it is a competition we always congratulate the winner and play fairly.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a competitive spirit but a sore loser and a boastful winner are not people others want as friends. He is not too young at all to learn to behave graciously.

KnottedAnchorChief Sat 16-Mar-13 20:26:44

No advice I'm afraid but just to say DS is exactly the same. I persevered with playing games like simple board games and snap etc as I thought it was important that DS learned that he can't win all the time, but I've now stopped playing. it is just too stressful for everyone involved and ends with games being thrown or broken, me cross and DS in a towering hysterical tantrum. I will reintroduce them when I think that he's a bit more able to deal with it.

He does try to win at everything still and everything he does has to be faster/higher/bigger than everyone else. I just completely refuse to get drawn into it and try not to react to strops when he doesn't get the competition he wants. I'm hoping it will calm down when he is a bit more emotionally mature, but DH is v competitive so maybe I'm stuck with it.

exoticfruits Sat 16-Mar-13 22:34:14

It will get better when they go to school- they play games in small groups and only one can win!

hillyhilly Sat 16-Mar-13 23:34:29

My dd is pretty dreadful like this too, she is now 8 and still struggles occasionally but she was helped by playing completely random board games, we played the same one repeatedly (dotty dinosaurs) so that she could see that we all won at different times - we did endure a lot of tears along the way but games like hat she is pretty good with now.
However, we still don't play the wii!!

snotfunny Sun 17-Mar-13 08:44:11

Thank you so much everyone - I know it's just something we have to live through and he'll eventually be grown up enough to cope with losing. We never react to his 'I win!' statements and often say 'so what?! It wasn't a competition', but he isn't looking for anyone else's validation, it would seem. He just wants to win.

It is also not just us who have this problem with him - his Grandad told me that they were playing a game last week and DSS was losing and threw a toy car at his Grandad's head. All of us have agreed not to let him win everything, but it's so tiring living through the inevitable tantrum.

I have banned all competition in my house, if I'm honest. I can't deal with the stress of it all, but, as I said, he turns everything into a competition whether anyone else is competing or not.

I know other children are like this - I am a Primary School Teacher - but children in school seem to be able to manage within a situation where peer pressure is so strong and teachers are constantly modelling winning and losing. That's why I feel particularly lost, because I can usually deal with these kinds of things in a calm way, by explaining rationally, but there's nothing rational about DSS's thought patterns. He just sees red.

Thanks again. I'll take what you all say on board.

exoticfruits Sun 17-Mar-13 11:12:06

Being at school is very different from being at home. There are so many other children and so many occasions where you are not doing to get chosen.

Maybe try before playing the game explain that there is only one winner and it may not be him. Tell him that you will immediately stop playing if he makes a fuss and pack up the games-keeping very calm. Treating it as the most boring thing out is probably the best bet.

exoticfruits Sun 17-Mar-13 11:13:32

With the 'first to get upstairs' etc perhaps you and DS could just start saying one word as answer -'boring' before you ignore.

NeverendingStoryteller Mon 18-Mar-13 21:07:45

I recognise this behaviour from my own experience. In my case (maybe not yours, but you'll know if this rings a bell) this kind of behaviour came from extreme levels of sibling rivalry and the need of one of the children to express to the adults that he or she is not getting enough attention, or that they feel as if they are competing against your 'favourite' in some way. Instead of giving him attention in some negative way, perhaps you could bring him closer to you - sometimes, a bit of physical attention can help reduce the behaviour. For example, before you approach stairs, would it be helpful for you to ask your DSS to hold your hand so you can walk up together? It might be worth focusing on cooperative games, or games in which he teams up with an older member of the family. Also, when he complains about losing, don't try to explain about the inevitability of losing, perhaps, instead, offer him a hug and tell him that you understand that losing the game must make him feel very frustrated/sad/angry, and leave it at that. He's only little and won't be able to explain where this is coming from. Good luck!

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