We are playing Zingo. It is a game where you pull two small number squares from a card holder and match them to your game card, and similar to bingo, the winner yells “zingo!” when their card is filled up.
My son is pulling the plastic yellow number tiles from the card holder, and when we both have filled up our card except for the number “two,” I tell him, “Hey, we both need the number two—you better be ready.”
He pulls the number two a few cards later. I give him a few seconds to yell out “two,” but when he reaches for the card holder, I grab the number two tile, put it on my card and yell out “Zingo!”
I look at my son to see his reaction. His response is instantaneous. He grabs my game card, flings it up and the number tiles in the air and moves the card holder back and forth to find a number two.
Then, he places it on his card and yells out, “Zingo…I win!”
What would you do? Blow up at seeing the tiles scattered across his bedroom floor? The bedroom he just finished cleaning up. Find his revisionist history comical? Make this a teachable moment on right behavior?
I know my son is five and a half and, as a sensory kid, he has difficulty modulating his body. I am sure his overly active senses played a part in his reaction; however, this feels like a significant “life lesson” for him, so I go for the teachable moment:
“No, I won.”
I review what just transpired, explaining that I filled up my number card first and was the first one to yell “Zingo.” It makes perfect sense to me, but I know this doesn’t mean it makes sense to him.
It’s like when I tell him to put on his pajamas and he takes off running. My son has won in his mind. This is his revisionist history. Of course, he knows I won or he wouldn’t have flung my pieces on the floor.
But he really believes he has won, and we all tell ourselves lies. We choose to believe the beautiful lie rather than accept the ugly truth. We spin the truth and rationalize and justify wrong behaviors.
“It’s okay if you don’t win every time,” I say. ”But you can’t throw the game pieces when you don’t win. You can congratulate the winner.”
This is the simple teachable point, but I know bigger lessons exist beyond his comprehension: Like it’s always better to tell the ugly truth than a beautiful lie.
That is the ugly truth I have learned, but I am hoping my son gets this lesson: that it’s okay if you don’t win every time and it’s not acceptable to throw your game pieces.