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How to Teach Kids the Art of Losing

Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Never have I ever thought that teaching my son to lose gracefully would be such an important part of my parenting journey. No one like to lose but at one point we all do even when we know we gave it our all whether it is a school competition or a game. Of course, losing is inevitable throughout the course of the lifetime, but to think of it as a pillar of parenting right alongside “be a good human” and “love to learn”? It did not even cross my mind until one day my husband brought this up with my 5-year-old son.

He went out to play with his friends in the evening and were having a race. He did not win and suddenly his lips quivered, and he started crying. He did not want to the race anymore. We kept saying its ok!!but to no avail, he just did not want to understand. I talked to him in night, and he said that I want to win else I will never ever race with anyone. I told him to keep trying till he succeeds and went to bed. “

That is just the part of the game”, I tried to reassure him.

After he slept, I pondered over what is going on in his mind. He is going to lose a lot in his life. He needs to learn how to lose. And it is never too early to start. I started searching online and I came across an article by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., Parent’s advisor, and coauthor of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids. It says that “Competitiveness is natural among preschoolers”. They see it the opportunity to best their buddies in everything to who can swing higher to who gets in the line first. At the age of 4, they compete over everything and starts comparing as bigger and better.

It is not the easy lesson at 5 or even 35. But loss bring perspective and we learn from it what we cannot ever learn from winning.

I have jotted down few points as how you can teach your kids to lose.

Start Young

It is better to start early as nobody likes to lose even at any age. We all know our children well and I knew that my child is well mature to handle and learn these lessons at the age of 4. Those who have children under the age, and they think that they are not mature enough to understand, wait for them until they are ready and instead of focusing at once, focus on small parts of losing and being a good sport.

Do not let them win all the time.

As parents, we have the instinctual desire to protect our child from every kind of hardship or hurdles. We want them to have an easy and stress-free life but realistically this is not guarantee. As parents, it should be our responsibility to prioritize teaching them how to handle struggle and frustration. And this means we do not let them win every time.

I know its hard to see your kid disappointed, but I am learning to resist the urge of clearing every path in front of him constantly. I know that if I keep trying to shelter them from disappointment, they will be less able to handle it when they get older. While the small losses feel so big now, the losses that comes to the future will be on the larger scale.

Embrace a “Practice makes you better” mindset.

This is the cue I took it from my husband. He keeps on saying that practice makes you better. I have seen how this phrase has shaped his mindset. Now whenever, he loses, he himself says this a lot. “Mom, I really need to practice getting better”. It works every time, in regard with everything from sports to drawing, cooking, and reading.  

This mindset helps them to focus on efforts and learning rather than outcome or perfection. Practice will never make you perfect but will always make you better.

Validate their feelings.

While I am teaching all this to my kid, I am recognizing that teaching them to lose and having them to be ok with losing are two different things and that is ok. It is actually very rare that a person enjoys losing. When they are upset about losing, that is the valid feeling. I cannot brush off this feeling by just saying that “It’s just a game”.

What I can do to teach them that it is ok to sit in sadness and live-in pain and defeat without being rude and angry towards their friends. What I can do is to show them how to overcome overwhelming emotions and stand back.

Look for lessons.

Every experience comes with the lesson and its just that when we win, we are less likely to look for it because we are very pleased with our outcome. Losing pushes us to reflect and brings growth and chances to start again. Teaching our kids how to reflect and comes up with the point of pride that they can hold on to and can objectively see their gaps or areas that need development is an essential skill.

 

Being a good sport after winning or losing comes more naturally to some children than others, but all children can learn these skills with practice and support. Ahaan has not lost his competitive spirit but he did learn to stop saying hurtful words after losing.

It is my privilege as a parent to be able to guide them through this and I don’t take this lightly.

 

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