As a child, I loathed losing. Whether it was a card game or sporting events, losing left me in tears and left my family members promising to never engage in competition with me again.
Losing is an inevitable fact of life, though, and the more we help our young kids deal with it, the better they’ll be able to handle rejection and loss later on.
While not a pleasant thought, we all know that losing happens and while it’s impossible for our child to win all the time, there are ways to help our children handle it in a gracious way, and to learn from it.
Here are some ways to help our kids accept losing.
1. Give them time and space
It takes time for us to process losing, especially when it’s during a pursuit that we practiced for and dreamed of winning. There’s a sort of grieving process that occurs, and if we give advice too quickly, the words can ring hollow. Give your kids a little time and space to handle the immediate adversity and approach them later when they are in a better frame of mind to discuss what happened.
2. Remind them of the important lesson at hand
It can be difficult for kids to understand, but we learn a lot from losing. In fact, some might say that we learn more from losing than from winning. If we’re able to help our children reflect on their loss and why it occurred, it will be a tremendous benefit in teaching them how to better prepare for the next event and give themselves a better chance at winning.
3. Talk about it ahead of time
No one likes to lose. No one sets out in a competitive event and says, “Gee, I really hope I lose today.” However, kids need to know before the event that no matter how hard they’ve worked, there can only be one winner. And depending on how many kids are competing, there can be lots of losers.
4. Show them how to be respectful
When we win, we want to celebrate, jump up and down, and revel in the moment. When we lose, we want to crawl under a rock and hide forever. Help your children understand that while they want to win, they might not and, if they don’t, there are ways to act appropriately. Remind them to be gracious in defeat — to shake hands with their competitors, not to sulk or throw a tantrum, and to be respectful to the judges, and referees.
5. Give them examples
There are a multitude of examples of people who lost sporting events only to use that defeat as motivation. Try to find a few of these examples to share with your children. One famous example is Michael Jordan, who was cut from a high school basketball team, only to eventually become the greatest basketball player of all time.
6. Tell them it makes winning so much sweeter
Many athletes and other competitors will tell you that they needed a few losses to truly enjoy the thrill of victory. If winning came easily, it would lose its meaning. By losing and being forced to work harder, winning becomes much more meaningful.