After dinner tonight I took out a card game the girls have had for a while; a game that we used to play quite often, but haven’t touched in a while.  The main reason we haven’t played in a while is because a very active toddler boy would rather grab and squish the cards than sit nicely and allow a game to be played…but that is another post.

So I took out this game, similar to Uno.  We played the first round, and Annabella won.    We played the second round, and Annabella won.  We played one last round, me hoping that Abigail would have a chance to win, and….Annabella won.

Abigail is competitive, just like her Mama.  I once pegged a teammate in the head with a soccer ball because he was the reason we lost a game in practice…IN PRACTICE. Thankfully, my competitive nature has toned down (a bit) over the years.  I can see Abigail heading down that road, without some kind of intervention and direction.   She really really doesn’t like to lose, and doesn’t handle it well.

She complains.  She says she doesn’t want to play any more.  She says, ‘it’s no fair.’  She asks, ‘when am I going to get a turn to win?’

All thoughts and questions I can relate to.

Now, it was tempting tonight to simply scold her for being a ‘bad sport’ and a ‘sore loser.’  It would have been easy to shame her into outwardly behaving by condemning her for thoughts that are, quite honestly, understandable and reasonable.  I mean, who really likes to lose?  And given a choice, who wouldn’t want to win?

How often do scenarios like this come up in a given day?  If you have children at home, it doesn’t take long before someone has a bad attitude, a poor or selfish spirit. The quick solution seems to be a quick scolding, so that we (mom) can move on with the important things of the day.  But how shortsighted…and how shortchanged we leave our children when we do that.

I could have called Abigail a sore loser, but what does that even mean?  How often do I throw out cliché’s without ever explaining the meaning to my children?  As if they should just know what I’m saying.

The alternative is to take the extra time upfront, engaging in a thorough conversation addressing the heart issues, not just the outward behavior.  This, unfortunately, takes a whole lot more time and is much more inconvenient than offering a quick rebuke.  But that is what we are called to as parents, isn’t it?

Tonight I had a “teachable moment.”  I didn’t set up the scenario, I didn’t choreograph the encounter with the goal of lecturing my girls.  I got something so much better.  Within the normal, natural course of life, a scenario presented itself, revealing a heart problem with one child.

I know that her extreme competitiveness will present itself again, and the poor spirit that displayed its ugly head will reappear in some future event.  I haven’t tied a bow around this problem, believing that it is all fixed.  But, I have chipped away at the heart attitude, hopefully making an impression that I can call upon the next time this occurs.

Slowly, over time, and with diligence, I pray that I will be able to mold her in this area; making her more gracious both in victory and in defeat.  Teaching her to treat others as she wants to be treated.  Able to win without boasting and lose without complaining.

With my eyes on the long term, I hope that this issue diminishes over time and that as she enters adulthood, her character here will be more Christlike.  In the meantime, I will fight the small battles, knowing that each battle is a small part of the entire war.