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Winning and Losing

No child likes to lose, but then again, no adult likes to lose either. Think about it; how would you feel if you lost out on a promotion to another co-worker? That's how children feel when they lose a game; a basketball championship game could mean as much to your child as a promotion means to you. It's ok for your child to feel upset about the loss of a big game, but if she's acting the same way when she loses a simple game like a tag, a problem could be in the works. Acting like a sore loser is a learned behavior, and whether you realize it or not, your child may have learned the behavior from you.

Encouraging a "Good Sport"

As your child gets a bit older, she may begin to watch how the adults around her act when they're frustrated. Even if you tell your child you're not upset about something, and you clearly are, she'll pick up on it. Children can become sore losers because they think their role models (namely, you) never lose at anything. Parents who don't talk about their own failures or disappointments give their kids an impossible standard to live up to. Here are some things to focus on if you feel your child is becoming a "sore loser:"

  • Look at the subtle messages you may be sending to your child. For instance, if you go out for celebratory dinner and ice-cream after the big win, you're obviously supporting your child's win, which is great. However, when she loses and all you have to say is "at least you tried," she will clearly feel that you value winning over effort.
  • Practice winning and losing with your child. Before your child becomes active in sports teams, you should practice losing with her. Constantly winning games at home sets up unreal expectations about winning for your child.
  • Talk to your child about her feelings when she wins and when she loses. When children lose, they may feel upset and ashamed to have let parents/the team/the coach down. It's important to let your child know that you and other family members have lost at plenty of things before, and it's all part of growing up. This will help your child realize that losing is something everyone deals with.
  • Encourage your child to keep trying, even when she wants to give up. Letting your child know that you're there for her, win or lose, as long as she tries her hardest, will give her the support she needs to persevere.

Losing is a Part of Playing Sports and Games

Getting your child familiarized with the concept of losing will only help her in the future. Remember, losing is just as much part of a game as winning. Remind your child that if she wants to participate in competitive sports, then she has to be prepared to take losing (and winning) gracefully.