Losing is not fun for your young athlete. But it is inevitable, and teaching your child how to lose properly is just as important as teaching manners, honesty, and responsibility.
I watched an episode of the show Parenthood recently where an 8-year-old became very angry whenever she lost while playing games with her parents. Mom and Dad sent her to her room, and the rest of the night she cried and yelled mean things things to her mother while Mom sat outside her door getting comfort from a glass of wine.
You may have felt her frustration too. If you have a child who goes berserk at a loss, or at the very least, handles it in an unsportsmanlike way, these suggestions might help.
Acknowledge the loss
First let clarify that I am not saying that your child should enjoy losing, or even be okay with it. I am saying that kids need to learn to accept losing, and then grow from the experience.
- Don’t sugarcoat. Losing sucks. Acknowledge that to your child. Let them know you feel their pain and love them no matter what the outcome. Tell them it is okay to be angry but no one wins all the time.
- Talk with your child about what it means to lose. It may mean not winning the trophy, but in that loss, there is an opportunity for growth. What did they learn from the experience and how can they do better next time?
- Find the small victories. Once you’ve lamented their loss with them, help them see the good stuff that happened during the game.
Model how to handle loss
- Share your own personal losses and frustrations. Kids need to know that we all experience disappointment.
- Let your kids see you lose. They are watching closely. How you handle it sends a huge message to your kids.How do YOU handle it? Because chances are, that’s how your child will handle it too.
Look for other role models
- When you watch sports together, discuss the good and bad behavior of pro and college athletes.
- Take your kids to games where the athletes are a little older than them. Let them observe good and bad sports. Talk about it during the game or on the way home
Learn to show good sportsmanship
- Encourage your child to congratulate others after the game. Of course, most teams require the “good game, good game” line-up (always sounds like a bunch of bees buzzing to me), but talk to your kid about taking it a step further. Shake the other coach’s hand after the game. Seek out a player from the opposing team who really worked hard and tell them good job. My kids have had opposing players do that to them and it always meant a lot.
- Talk with your child about good plays their own team mates had and suggest that they give a high five or “good job” the player. Of course, it starts with you modeling that. If your kids see you do it to their teammates, they may follow.
As parents, we must teach our kids that everyone fails, and you can’t win all the time. Our job is to help them learn to deal with it constructively and help them grow through the pain.
Join with other sports parents who are serious about making the most of their children’s sports experiences. You’ll get regular blog updates, a weekly parenting tip, and a free ebook on how to raise great kids. It’s easy, sign up here.