Helping kids learn from losing


"How can I help my child learn to lose without a meltdown?" Winning is fun. It doesn't matter if it's closing a big deal at work, beating another team at

sporting event or simply playing a board game. We get a sense of accomplishment when we succeed. Kids are the same way! They take pride in their accomplishments and we encourage them to practice so they can continue to improve. We often tell our kids, "Work hard, it'll pay off in the end." But what if it doesn't? What if your child works hard, builds up his skills, practices over and over again and yet he still comes out on the losing end in the results? Then what? What's in it for them? Some kids handle losing in stride. They don't measure their self worth through accumulating trophies or score keeping. For these kids, the satisfaction comes from being with friends and doing something she enjoys. Kids who do something because they love it may experience some disappointment when their team loses, but they quickly shake it off and move on to the next part of their day. But what's up with your kid? The one who melts down over losing a video game? It could be a number of things. Kids are ego driven and losing may be a blow to their confidence. It might be frustration because he has consistently been practicing a new skill only to discover he hasn't quite mastered it yet. Perhaps it's a matter of self-esteem. Many people, adults included, define their self worth by their accomplishments. Trophies, blue ribbons, a new car, a promotion all stand as external symbols of someone's success. Quite honestly, I don't agree with the "everyone gets a trophy" theory after a certain age, but that's another blog for another time. Teaching what's important First of all, let me say this is not going to work with everyone. I have consulted with some adults who refuse to release the measuring stick of "valedictorian" for their child, so your child may not respond to all of these ideas but it's worth a try!

Changing the purpose If we want to change a behavior, we need to disrupt the flow of thoughts leading up to the behavior. For kids who get mad about losing a board game, they may need a shift in the purpose of playing to begin with. Focus on:

  • the time spent together

  • accomplishing something fun together ("Let's see how many rounds of Battleship we can fit into an hour.")

  • learning a new skill from each other ("Hey, can you tell me how you figured that out?)