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Counselor’s Hub: Teaching Kids to Lose
04 Nov
  • Counselor’s Hub: Teaching Kids to Lose

Teaching your child to cope with losing is an important life skill.

On curriculum night I was listening to an experienced teacher talking about making mistakes and encouraging the same risk-taking to the parents in the room listening intently to her point of building resilience in kids and avoiding the character trait of perfectionism.

I’m sure every parent dreads playing games with their children at some point. But they are opportunities to build resilience. When it comes to competition, teaching your child how to lose is just as important as teaching them how to win. In fact, learning how to handle defeat is a necessary life skill that can help them in many different areas of their lives. Here are a few tips to help you teach your child how to lose effectively.

Losing gracefully without big explosions of anger and frustration is hard for kids, especially for kids who constantly strive to be perfect. As parents, we can do things to help our children handle the defeat well, without getting angry ourselves.

Loser reminder
Before starting the game, remind your child that someone will lose the game, and it might be them. A gentle reminder might help bring your child’s expectations of winning down and give them a chance to start regulating their feeling.
I use this approach in the Counselor’s Hub before playing card games and it works almost always. Children will also refrain from cheating to win already accepting that fair play and relationship trust is more important than the result.

Demonstrate healthy reactions
Teaching by example is one of the simplest and most effective ways to help children control their reactions to losses.
Let them see you overcome disappointment, congratulate winners, and hold your head up high when you find yourself in defeat.

Point out how well the winner played and the things you were proud of in your performance.

Everyone loses and sometimes we win.

Don’t always let them win
We instinctively want to shield our kids from disappointment. Too often, we allow our kids to win to help build their self-confidence.

Though this can be a good approach on occasion, children can’t learn how to lose gracefully if they never experience disappointment.

It is inevitable that at some point in life, they will lose. This can be a difficult lesson if you have never lost before. Losing in the safe environment of the home and school is an opportunity for growth as you can help your child regulate their feeling about the loss.

Embrace the chaos
Accept that learning to lose is part of your child’s development, and a meltdown is inevitable. When your child feels angry or frustrated after a loss, help them regulate their feelings by being empathic. Let them know you understand how hard it feels to lose a game, and let them know you are there if they need you.

Give constructive feedback
Once your child feels regulated, spend some time talking about why they lost the game and what they could have done better.

Focus on places where they can improve and praise the strengths of the winner we can all learn from others' examples.
Create a plan to improve performance or strategy with your child.

Teach them the power of “Yet”
“Yet” is one of the most powerful words to use. When your child yells something like, “I can’t win!”  I reply with, “Yet!  You can’t win, yet.”

Yet is where we start to understand that we can accomplish things; we aren’t quite there yet.

Teach your children the power of “yet,” and that with effort and practice, they will be able to improve their performance.
It’s important for kids to learn how to lose. There are many benefits associated with being able to handle defeat, not the least of which is increased self-regulation and resiliency. 

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact School Counselor at schoolcounselor@msb.edu.cn.