Have you ever fudged the rules of Candy Land, just so your kiddo wouldn’t lose? Or perhaps you’ve intentionally slowed down when racing your child across the backyard, just to see her cross the finish line first? As a parent, seeing your child experience the joy of winning is priceless. And protecting her from losing shields her from experiencing the sadness, anger, and disappointment that come with defeat. However, learning how to lose with grace is healthy for children. It’s a lifelong skill necessary for developing empathy and self-control. If your child never learns to lose, she’ll fail to develop the coping skills to effectively handle defeat, which can lead to depression and chronic problems in interpersonal relationships.
Learning how to lose with grace begins at home. It’s much easier for your child to lose to her mom at Uno versus being defeated by a peer at school where her social reputation is at stake. Here are a few tips for teaching your child to learn to lose with grace:
CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE
Are you constantly competing with your spouse at home? Is every activity about who can do it the fastest or get the most? Do you have a negative attitude if you lose? If so, you may want to stop and think about what this is teaching your child. If you value winning above all else, your child will pick up on this and come to believe it’s most important. Don’t get me wrong, winning is great and a little competition is healthy, but winning isn’t everything. Children learn by modeling, so show your child you can handle losing appropriately. Teach your child that having fun and trying your hardest are important too. You don’t have to keep score all the time.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Losing with grace takes practice. Chances are, your child will initially react to losing by pouting or throwing a fit. When this happens, it may be really difficult to remember that the experience is for her own good. Seeing your child suffer through a minor loss now will benefit her immensely in the long run. With practice, your child will become less sensitive to losing, and thus better able to congratulate the winner of the game. Additionally, she’ll learn from her mistakes and become a more skillful player in the future.
TEACH POSITIVE COPING
Validate your child’s disappointment when she loses. Teach your kiddo that she can be disappointed AND react appropriately to her loss by saying “good game” to her opponent. Teach your child coping skills for handling losing, such as positive self-talk like “It’s just a game,” “Winning isn’t the only thing that’s important; I had fun,” and “I tried my best and I’m going to do things differently next time.” Encourage taking a deep breath or a small break in order to handle disappoint and frustration appropriately.
Got a tip on how to teach your child to lose with grace? Harmony At Home welcomes your comments and feedback.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
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