Winning and Losing Well

March 30, 2017
Winning and Losing Well
Photo courtesy of Flickr, USAG-Humphreys

Competition can be great when it motivates, makes activities fun and strengthens character – but for many young children it can also have negative effects.

See the following tips for more information on helping your child to be a good sport.

1. Be a good role model 

  • Examine your own reactions to winning and losing and think about what messages you are sending your child. Keep family and friendship relationships non-competitive and try to avoid unnecessary or innocent pressure.

2. Praise effort, not results

  • This doesn’t mean that results don’t matter, but rather that the focus should be on teaching children to take on challenges and show determination.  Notice when your child is improving, working hard and practicing, and give those moments your attention.  This will help promote a growth mindset and help your child strive for achievement instead of expecting it.

3. Teach “bounce back” statements 

  • Use losses as an opportunity to learn for the future.  Say “You made a mistake, now you know what not to do next time!” and teach your children to repeat this mantra to themselves.  Let your child practice “losing” with you at home.  It’s important that they have a balance of success and failure, even with simple board games.

4. Pay attention to your child’s feelings

  • Let your child know that it is OK to have a variety of feelings when they win or lose.  Talk about the feelings of the other child or team who won or lost.  Good teammates show empathy, kindness and sensitivity to others.
  • Look for signs of healthy vs unhealthy competition.  If your child is refusing to participate, reporting frequent injuries or illnesses, or showing any signs of anxiety or depression around a competitive event, seek help.  Talk to your pediatrician for more information, tools and resources. 

5. Put the focus back on self achievement 

  • Focusing on what everyone else is doing can make it hard to see your own progress.  Remind kids to measure themselves against themselves in order to see how much they have learned, how far they have come and how much improvement has been made.  This will keep them motivated, encouraged and offer lots of opportunities to win on a personal level, regardless of the overall outcome.
For more information on helping your child be a good sport, click here.