It's a question I keep repeating as I watch my dad take two or three backward steps. I'm a scrawny 10-year-old, tugging up a pair of Adidas tracksuit bottoms by the waistband and adjusting the gold-rimmed glasses which dwarf the majority of my face. My fingers flex in a threadbare pair of goalkeeping gloves. To my left lies a coat, crumpled in a heap. To my right, a tree stump.
"Don't be soft. Promise?"
My dad nods. You can tell that in his mind he's treading the turf at Wembley, gearing up to take what could be the winning penalty in the World Cup final. He takes his run up, and shoots: laces straight through the ball.
I soar like an eagle, an eagle who has his two front teeth missing and hair in curtains. And, with an outstretched arm, I palm the ball away before crashing to the grass.
Scrabbling to my feet, I triumphantly punch the air and yell as loudly as I can, which – thanks to my prepubescent voice – comes out as a mild squeal. My father says I am as good as David Seaman, which makes my day, and I spend the rest of the afternoon grinning from ear to ear – which, coupled with those glasses I told you about, means I look a bit weird.
There's a reason this particular memory has remained with me for over a decade. It's not just because of the incredible save: it's the fact that I knew that I had earned my celebratory punch, that my dad hadn't kicked the ball softly on purpose just to make me feel good.
It's a principle I'm passing on to my own children.
Don't get me wrong – when playing a game with either of my sons I don't set out to thrash them, to get all the points and rub defeat in their faces by doing a little victory dance. But it's about making sure they feel a true sense of accomplishment when they do win, knowing that I haven't dived over the ball on purpose, or timed the squares just right so that I slide down the snake just as I'm about to win.
It seems I am not alone. This competitive nature is shared by mum Colette Cooper, who echoes: "I'm too competitive to let my kids win. But they do need to know how to lose."
This is an important point: throughout your child's life they will experience disappointment, and knowing how to react is an important part of a child's mindset and good preparation for the future. Nobody likes a sore loser, after all.
Claire LaRue agrees with this sentiment, and says of her children: "They will earn their wins, learn to compete, win every game on merit and skill. Losing is a part of life, not just childhood."
And even if your child does sulk at the time of losing, it's all character building: if you work hard to achieve something, it feels all the better for it.
Do you agree with Ben? Tell us what you think...
More on Parentdish: How can I help my son become a better loser?
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