I've always been easy on my two little girls, but recently it occurred to me that I've been a little too easy on them. I play the part of the good cop, my wife teaching them  more about life than I do. And I finally came to realize the other day that I may just have to start beating them. I'm talking, of course, about competitive games.

A recent game of Hi Ho Cherry-O was my first indicator that I had been a pushover daddy. My oldest girl, a precocious four year-old, was winning the game in style. She always wins games when I have control over the outcome, but in this case, I was at the mercy of chance. And would you believe it, she had to put all of her cherries back on the board. On my next turn, I collected two more cherries and won the game. Blast my good luck.

The look on my girl's face was one of disbelief, followed by a mixture of anger and sadness. She cried, a lot. And as I comforted her, I could see my wife in the background giving me a look of disbelief, too. I realized, in that instance, that this was no way to prepare my little girl for the realities of life.

Sure, it's only a silly game of chance for toddlers. But losing well is just as important as winning, and in fact I had said on many occasions "it's not about winning, it's about having fun." Alas, I wasn't making good on that. I was letting her win every single time, be it on her V-Smile or a board game or a simple game of hide 'n' seek. I had been the martyr to her gaming record, and although I didn't care, she had started to expect the win. The loss came as a big, nasty surprise.

As I thought more about this, I started thinking back to my own childhood. My father's middle name should have been "competitive." I remember sitting in the kitchen on my second game of Monopoly with my dad. As I rounded the corner and landed on Mayfair (this was the English version) I realized he was about to clean me out. This was going to be a loss of epic proportions.

I looked at my mom, gave a tearful stare, and she nudged my dad and asked if he could maybe only take half of my money. "No" he said, "that's not part of the game, that's not going to teach him anything." And as he took all of my hotels, houses and cash, smiling like a vagabond, I resigned the game and ran upstairs crying. I was eight years old.

From that point on, I swore I'd beat him at every game. And I'd beat everyone else, too. I became even more competitive than my old dad, which was pointed out to me later on by many people. "Why are you so mercenary" I was asked during a game of Scrabble. "Just playing the game" I said, as I sat and stared at the board for another ten minutes, desperate to find a word that would grab the triple word score and put me miles ahead of my wife and mother-in-law.

It was something that bothered me though. Did I want to teach my kids to be such a competitive player? Wasn't this more about fun and taking part? So, I decided I would not be my dad, and I'd ease up on games. I would let them win a few. I would make them enjoy playing, rather than dreading the thought of another royal beating from their insane dad. Unfortunately, I went a little too far in the other direction, to the extent that they now have no idea how to take a loss. My bad.

So, from this point on, I'm going to be a little more aware of the scorecard. Yesterday I was playing a memory game with my little girl, and she beat me fair and square on the first round. The second game, I won. The third, well, I had the occasional lapse of memory to help her win that one. Two thrashing in a row wouldn't have been much fun for her. But I made it a tight game.

Bottom line, as a parent I have a duty to build a foundation for my girls to live by. That doesn't just mean education and moral values, it also means social etiquette. We win some, we lose some, and that is a fact of life. I won't be beating them at every game, but I won't be throwing in the towel every time either. Right, now where is my Monopoly board?