Family life

Confession: My kids are sore losers

Though we mean well, purposefully losing a hand of cards or feigning exhaustion in a race might not be the best for our kids.

little-girl-crying-sad Photo: iStockphoto

Around our house, we jokingly refer to a screen-free evening of playing board games as our "family un-fun night." This isn't because we don't appreciate the value of turning off our TV and computers in favour of time together, but because there is a 100 percent chance that the evening will end with someone in tears. That's because my kids are sore losers.

A game of Battleship usually ends with the plastic pegs and ships upended and tossed across the room. Jenga bricks are left in a heap on the floor where they tumbled. Classic kid-friendly card games turn into 52 pick-up, the playing cards thrown across the table. Every single non-competitive and fun game that you can name turns into a battle that sees both Isaac and Gillian yelling and crying if they end up losing. We've even tried a family puzzle night, because there are no points to keep track of, but my kills still hoard puzzle pieces and argue over who is going to be the one with the final piece of the puzzle. It really does make me wish that we had cable—at least my kids don't fight over what TV shows to watch.

I wish I could say that this is a new development in my children's personality quirks, but it's not. I remember one soccer game four years ago, when my son had the nerve to spit at the winning team instead of shaking their hands. While Isaac has never reacted that poorly again, his attitude towards losing also has not improved and it's rubbing off on his younger sister. It makes for awkward moments at sports tournaments and games nights with friends.

While I struggle with my kid's embarrassing reactions when they lose, you'll never find me purposefully losing a hand of Go Fish or feign exhaustion in a foot race. There are two reasons for this:

  • I disagree with the current sports trend of awarding all young participants a ribbon or trophy. In sports (and in the bigger picture of life), there are always winners and losers.
  • I believe there are very important lessons be learned when you fail. I believe kids learn perseverance and resiliency, two personality traits that cannot be developed by constantly winning.

I have a story that I like to tell my children about winning and losing. Over my years of running, there have been races I have won and lost (most of the time, I finish somewhere in the middle).  While my first place finish in my first ultramarathon is something I'm very happy with, it's the time I finished dead last that I'm most proud of. This puzzles my son, but really, the reason is quite simple: It's the race where I learned the importance of never quitting.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

This article was originally published on Aug 11, 2014

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