Kay Wyma On Healthy Competition And A Rule That Will Forever Change Family Game Night

I love Kay’s post this week. See, I too have a love/hate relationship with competition. On the one hand, I think it is essential, necessary, good. I am vehemently opposed to this “everyone’s a winner” moment we seem to be trapped in. I believe it’s good to participate but that the act of just showing up doesn’t merit a trophy. But that’s just me. On the flip side, it seriously bums me out that family game night (and endeavor that should be fun and friendly) inevitably turns my girlies into utter and complete monsters, their obsession with winning eclipsing any semblance of reason whatsoever.

Cut to Kay and the genius “rule” she’s sharing with us this week. Friends, this one might change my life. Apples to Apples will never be the same again… Thanks Kay. I owe you one.


By Kay Wyma

I learned about a new rule in my brother’s house. A rule named and implemented by their kids.

Chris, my sister-in-law and best friend, became privy to the rule when she took a break from her motherly duties (at that moment, cleaning) to join the kids in an exciting game of dominoes.

One move led to another, to another, and then to V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. She had beaten them all!

“I won!”
“Great job, Mom,” encouraged her daughter.
All the kids cheered for her then said, “Now you get to clean it up.”
“What?! … That doesn’t sound right … I won.”
“Yeah, winner cleans up.”
“That’s our rule,” chimed in the youngest of her seven. Then he matter-of-factly added, “Whoever wins has to clean everything up. We’ve decided that’s what’s fair.”

The kids stuck to their rule. She did what she does so well. She, the winner, cleaned up.

What a terrific rule. I love those kids. We should have “Winner Cleans Up” everywhere.


Playing games is a blast. But a part of the fun gets lost in the competition. Competition that so often turns fierce right before our eyes. I’ve seen it happen even in UNO. Seriously, UNO – as if there’s any strategy involved in a rousing game of luck.

Competition defines so many areas of society these days. We groom it, celebrate it, and herald it from the minute we compare our babies’ dates of mobility against each other. We barrel down the road of competition determined to cross the finish line first. How old was your kid when he talked? Took their first steps? How fast did your kid run the mile? Did your team win the district football league? Did your kid get the middle school play’s lead role? What college did you attend? Were you the youngest CEO … or did you peak at stage-hand? Hmmm… sorry about that … (Not!)

Competition, though great in many ways (teaches endurance, compels excellence, usually involves teams, defeat, and victory) fuels some funky self-absorption. It almost grooms the idea that being all we can be is actually makes us better than someone else. Competition more often than not results in some big heads thinking they’re hot stuff.

Enter what could be the best rule ever. A rule that allows all the wonderful aspects of competition to thrive while zipping potential for self-aggrandizement: Winner Cleans Up

I mean think about it. What if the winner of the Super Bowl had to stay after and help all the stadium staff clean the bleachers? Rather than walk around weighed down by the heavy new ring adorning their hand, or strain tired muscles to hoist that ginormous trophy bathed in cheers of greatness, players could mix in some humility (dare we say – reality) with a little broom action.

What if the winner of American Idol had to stick around and wash everyone’s sheets at the “mansion” after their landing atop the grueling competition? What if the last kid standing at the National Spelling Bee stage had to help fold and put away all the chairs that only moments before had supported her and all the other amazing contestants. What if the owners of a Kentucky Derby-winning gelding had to don their rubber boots and muck the stalls?

Winner Cleans Up.

It sprinkles a nice dash of humility to a well-played and hard-earned victory. It doesn’t take away the win. It doesn’t give trophies to everyone. It doesn’t diminish the talent, gifts, perseverance, sacrifice, and dedication that went into a victory. It just adds a pinch of selflessness. It steers us away from striving to be better than others for competition’s sake and direct us toward humility. And when humility enters the picture, wisdom tends to follow.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:12 (ESV, 2001)


Kay Wyma is the author of  Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. She shares the hilarity and the tears that  come with raising adolescents & teens on her blog The Moat … because who wants to walk that road alone.