Kids can learn to be good at losing
Malcolm storms off the field at the end of the soccer match in a fury because his team lost. He sulks on the bench with his face buried in his fists and refuses to shake hands with the opposing team. To make matters worse, his friends on the team are mad at him for being a sore loser.
Shannon bursts into tears, upends the board game and stomps off when her dad draws the winning card.
Why do some kids have more trouble than others losing gracefully? Temperament plays a role, says Toronto parent educator Beverley Cathcart-Ross. Kids who are more intense by nature, more determined or more easily frustrated may be overwhelmed by the disappointment that comes with losing.
“It’s also more common among firstborns than any other birth order position,” says Cathcart-Ross. “To be right, to be first, is part of their job descriptions.” First-time parents may unwittingly create an atmosphere where performance is evaluated a lot. Their kids worry they’ll let their parents down and may avoid activities where there’s a possibility of losing. When they do lose, they fall apart.
As parents, we know that losing gracefully is a life skill, important for building good relationships and for maintaining a sense of self-worth. “We want our children to be equipped to weather disappointment, to be able to say, ‘Bring it on. If it doesn’t work out, I can handle it,’” says Cathcart-Ross.