Everybody wants to win, who doesn’t? It builds your child’s confidence and boosts his self-esteem. But there is actually a benefit to losing.
According to clinical psychologist at the Cleveland UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, Dr. Carolyn levers-Landis, losing can help a child develop empathy and perseverance. Experiencing both winning and losing can mold your child into a more complete human being as he grows older.
To help him better accept defeat, it’s important you explain to your child that there will always be a winner and a loser whenever two or more teams compete against each other in a game or contest (unless of course you end up with a tie, which normally is settled with a tie-breaker).
Losing sucks, but we don’t always get everything we want all the time and sometimes we lose. Tell your child that he may have lost this time but there are other games and competitions in the future where he can try again and perhaps he may win next time. This will take his mind of the current disappointment and give him something to look forward to.
Think before you act
When your child comes out at the bottom of the game or competition, explain to him that it’s okay to feel sad at that moment, but what’s important is what he should do next.
His emotions will most likely take the best of him at the beginning, that’s normal. But as a parent, you should show him how to think critically before he acts after this episode of emotion….will storming out of the game change the results? If he accuses his opponent of cheating even if he has no proof, will it benefit him or his team? What would his actions say about himself afterwards?
Sportmanship is about recognizing the inevitable result of a fair competition, that there is a winner and a loser, and that you as a player accepts this result regardless if you’re at the losing end. It is important to explain that the sudden gust of emotions that he feels after losing is temporary and will soon pass when he calms down. At the end of the day, it is having friends that is more important than winning.
Sometimes kids already sense mid-game that they’re not winning so they want to quit or bail early to avoid the dissapointment in the end. If he’s about to do this, Dr. Ievers-Landis suggests to explain to him that quitting mid-game is like breaking a promise to a friend…if you do this, your friend may not want to play with you again.
You can also try to point out how bad his team mates would feel if he leaves them mid-game and quits. If his team mate were to leave him behind, ask how that would make him feel. More often than not, kids will realize that leaving team mates out to dry isnt a good thing.
Praise his good plays
People in general want to win because of the accolades they get after the victory. Don’t make your child hungry to win just for recognition. As a parent, it is important to make your child feel he does something remarkable regardless if he loses the game in the end.
Do point out a good thing he did that is truly worth praising. For example, “you were so good when you scored a point during the second half of the game...your team mates were clapping their hands after you did that!” This way, he doesn’t feel all bad about the result.
Teach him how to be a sportsman
To downplay the importance of winning in a game, you can teach your little one about the significance of being a great sportsman. Here are some characteristics he should emulate:
A sportsman is polite. He does not trash talk or say mean things to his opponents. He respects his competitor during the game.
A sportsman doesn’t show off. Just do your best and people will notice how good you are, no need to brag about it
A sportsman abides by the rules. He doesn’t cheat or complain unless there is a legitimate reason to do so. He performs within the confines of the competition rules and regulations. He does not argue with the judges or referees.
A sportsman listens to his coaches. He follows his coach’s directions especially if it involves a team strategy.
A sportsman does not blame his teammates when he loses. Instead he learns from his experience so he can become better next time
Become a role model
No matter how much you lecture your child about being a good sport, if you aren’t a role model yourself, he won’t learn it’s true essence. I’m not talking about you as a player, but as a spectator.
Cheer for your favorite team, even if they’re already losing. Show him that you’re having fun with the game regardless if your team makes it on top or not. If you show him that the results don’t matter as much as the fun and enjoyment you feel, he wont feel too heartbroken if he ends up in the losing team.
Remember, you are your child’s biggest role model and your reactions count.