Gambling: The Risky Behavior You Should Talk to Your Young Kids About and How To Tackle It

Luck and skill—being good at something— are almost synonymous at the youngest ages. Think about it. There are so many instances where luck is related to positive outcomes.
Gambling: The Risky Behavior You Should Talk to Your Young Kids

Children 10 and Under

Research find that approximately 30% of youth began gambling at age 10 or younger. That is young. This is why we believe it’s never too early to talk to your kids about the “G Word.”

But how do you begin a conversation with a child this young about gambling? Chances are they don’t have awareness about gambling in the same way older kids do. But, it’s likely they do have an understanding of one key concept related to gambling: luck.

Luck and skill—being good at something— are almost synonymous at the youngest ages. Think about it. There are so many instances where luck is related to positive outcomes.

Michael Jordan had his lucky shorts. Having, or even being, a “good luck charm” is something everyone is familiar with. Nearly half of all children claim to have at least one good luck charm. Luck is tied to imagination, pretend play and so much that happens at this young age.

Ever play CandyLand or a similar roll-of-the-dice board game with a child under 10? No skill involved here. Playing games like this are super fun ways to start discussing games of luck versus games of skill:

“I won this round, but this is a game of random chance, not skill. Did you know that?”

“Rolling the dice doesn’t involve skill. You can’t improve at rolling the dice over time with practice. You have an equal chance of getting any one of the numbers on the die, each time you roll–kind of like a coin toss! Sometimes you get heads. Sometimes you get tails. But, you can’t control which.”

These are examples of ways you can begin an open conversation about games of random chance versus games of skill.

Rolling dice

Does your child play on a sports team? Perhaps they like to swim from one end of a swimming pool to the other and time themselves? These are opportunities to introduce activities that require effort and skill.

“Do you notice the difference between playing CandyLand and playing this game of catch?

TIP: pause and wait for answers. No matter what the child says, respond positively and with upbeat phrases. Validate their response by reflecting back using a keyword they’ve used.

An example would be “It sounds like you find CandyLand more fun because sometimes practicing baseball can feel hard. It’s difficult to become good at some things, but with hard work we can often get better at them. Now I’m going to tell you what I think about when I think of games like these.

With this game of catch, you’re improving over time. Your muscles are learning how to grasp and let go over the ball. But when you roll the dice or pick a random card, you can’t get better with time. That’s random chance, or luck. I think it’s pretty neat that you can practice and get better at something over time. It’s fun to think about games of chance and games of skill. What’s another game of skill that is fun?”

It’s easy to see how luck can influence a child’s thinking. A majority of 11-12 year-olds believe some people are simply luckier than others. Children can believe to be successful like someone else, they need to be lucky.

Help younger children who don’t naturally distinguish between luck and skill understand that if games only require luck, they’re less likely to win (even if it’s fun to play).

Talk and tips

For children under 10


Take interest in what they’re doing:

Make their passions your passions. Whether it’s the games they play or the videos they watch, let your kids teach you about their interests. Be curious. Ask questions. Play with them! Find out what your child finds fun and help them focus on that – as opposed to simply winning.


Talk about other activities:

Exposing your child to a range of activities has numerous benefits, but especially here. Steer them toward activities that require skill more than luck. If they’re playing games or sports, ask them how difficult it is to win. Do you have to be lucky to win or do you have to try hard? Are there times when both luck and skill played a part in the outcome?


Celebrate the process, not the result:

Although luck may play a role, emphasize that first and foremost, we celebrate the effort more than the win. Highlighting the process and the practice will help young children to notice and value their own accomplishments. Doing so is a key component of decoupling luck vs. skill. When a child presents you with a beautiful drawing, practice responding with an observation and a question about the process: “It looks like you really took time to select the colors and materials you used for this project. How did you decide what to do first?”


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