Teaching Your Kids to Lose Gracefully

“Yes! We won!” we exclaimed after my daughter got to the goal, bringing our team to a win. Everyone on both teams seemed happy with the win, except for my young daughter. She was on the other team and she was obviously not happy with losing to us. She started sulking, folded her arms and kicked some dirt up in the air and exclaimed “It’s not fair!,” while running into the house.

This wasn’t the first time one of our kids got upset over losing. Thankfully, they've learned to handle failure better as they got older.

I’ve seen it with at least three of my children when they were quite young and this is one of the reasons we play board games and sports with them. To teach them the skill of dealing with disappointment and loss and to lose gracefully. Here are some tips to help your child lose with grace.

Explain the concept of winning and losing. To prevent disappointment, explain the concept of winning and losing. Explain the objective of the game and go over the circumstances that makes a player or team win. Understanding the reasons why you win or lose will make it less frustrating when he loses.
Praise your child. Sure, you want to praise your child each time she kicks the ball into the goal. But, if you want to focus less on winning, provide positive feedback for her other efforts. You can praise her for being a good sport, learning from her mistakes or trying a new technique.

Let your child lose. It’s tempting to let your child win to prevent hurt feelings. We’ll allow them those small victories, especially when they can’t do it on their own. But we’re doing them an injustice when we do this. By allowing your child to lose, you’re helping them how to lose gracefully, deal with disappointment and develop perseverance. If your child is losing a lot, it’s okay to let them win a little, but it would be more to their advantage if you to help them play the game better by showing them different techniques or explaining the game if there’s something that they don’t understand.

Focus less on winning and more on doing your best. Whenever one of our kids was going through this phase, we would play a game non-competitively and without keeping score. Instead, we would try to focus more on playing as a team and helping each other out.

As a result, when we did keep score, I found that the child who was having trouble with losing would enjoy working as a team and losing didn’t bother them as much.

Set a good example. Our kids watch by observing and imitating, so show them good examples by responding well to your own defeats. This isn’t limited to games, but how well you respond to other disappointments, such as, being turned down for a job promotion, your favorite team losing, etc.

Show empathy. Even after you’ve helped your child deal with loss, they may still get upset. But remember that he’s still learning how to cope with disappointment. If he’s having a tantrum, he’ll have a hard time communicating with you. Wait a while and then talk to him when he’s in a calmer state of mind. If you show empathy to how he’s feeling, you’ll be able to help him deal with his emotions better. My daughter was quite upset after the loss that afternoon and that made the rest of us feel a little bad. But instead of getting upset with her and reprimanding her, I waited awhile for her to calm down and showed empathy when I talked to her later and she was able to communicate her feelings and handle her emotions better.


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