Connor Gouge, 5, of Holly Springs, NC, totally digs playing the card game UNO—until someone beats him. “He can get sad or sometimes even have a tantrum,” notes his mom, Irene. That's a scenario many parents know well.
From hot mess to success: Gouge never stacks the deck in Connor's favor. Instead, before she deals the cards, she strikes a deal: “I say we'll play three games no matter who wins or loses, as long as there's no whining. If he whines after losing a round, then it ends all play and we try again after a fifteen-minute cooldown. I tell him ‘I love playing with you and spending time together. If you win, I'm happy, and if I win, I'm happy. It's just for fun!’”
Extra tips from the experts: It's fine to halt the play due to tantrums. Just don't tell your child not to have one: “At this young age, they simply don't quite have the coping skills. They give really strong, honest, emotional reactions,” says Briggs. And while rigging games isn't cool, consider giving little kids a few extra points at the outset, or the occasional do-over, if there's no way they could win in a fair match, recommends Leff. She also suggests not picking up with the same game after a tantrum. Instead, try a different, non-competitive activity, such as coloring.
“At the end of playing UNO, as long as Connor's at all able to, we always shake hands and tell each other ‘Good game,’” adds Gouge. Good sportsmanship is something that never fails to help a child—or adult—in the long run.