"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.
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?)
Changing the value
For kids who define their worth by the number of trophies earned may be missing out on the internal satisfaction of a job well done. Their self-esteem is dependent on someone else's approval. This can be frustrating for them, and you.
I see this in teens all the time. They measure their value in the number of "likes", re-shares, or heart emojis on their social media posts. They are allowing their "friends" (all 1,843 of them) to determine if they are worthy or not.
We need to change the conversation!!
Instead of celebrating only a first place win, we need to celebrate the efforts that went into playing the game, performing at the dance recital or researching a science project.
We need to high five the problem solving that happened when our child got frustrated and instead of quitting, he broke it down into small bite-sized chunks and overcame the hurdle.
We need to stop giving red ribbons to everyone for everything. (I know, it's not PC to say, but I'm saying it.) When they are really young, it's fine if you say you're getting this because you came to practice every day, you tried your best.
As kids mature, they begin to understand that you won't always get rewarded for what you do (your boss doesn't throw confetti every time you turn in your weekly report does he?). You're working hard because you took on the commitment and promised to do your best to be a contributor to the team.
What can you do differently?
Sometimes we need to take a step back and see what the experience taught us! WE might ask your child, "What is one thing you would like to work on to improve?" Breaking the situation down into small steps can help your child feel more in control and empowered.
The goal isn't to talk them out of their feelings of disappointment. By all means, acknowledge their frustrations or sadness, but then empower them by helping take action. Going back to the beginning of this article, if we interrupt the negative thoughts and redirect thoughts towards steps for improvement, our kids will learn to do 3 things:
ASSESS what happened
PROBLEM SOLVE the situation
TAKE ACTION towards a more successful result in the future.
If you have parenting questions or concerns, I'm here to help!
Book a FREE Breakthrough Parenting Call today and let's chat! No pushy sales pitch, I promise! Just a conversation about what's challenging you and some strategies that will help!