Amy Steele, LCSW, RPT – Nov. 29, 2019
In any sport, there are a number of skills that one must learn to be successful. The skill of being a good loser will take kids far in life, whether they play sports for one season or make it as a professional athlete. It is a skill that is used throughout all of life when disappointing things happen.
A good loser accepts the loss in a way that shows respect for one’s self, both teams, the coaches and all of the other people involved. The seven tips below will help you improve your child’s ability to be a good loser and a good winner.
- Start young. Play board games with kids when they are little. Teach them that everyone wins and loses sometimes. End games by having everyone shake hands or do “Good Game” high fives to practice positive outcomes.
- When your child is upset about losing (at any age,) acknowledge that you understand it is disappointing to lose. You may have a child that is such a sore loser that you avoid games or anything competitive with them at all. While this may make it easier at the moment and avoid a tantrum, avoiding it would take away a great learning opportunity. Teaching your child to persevere through what they may see as a failure shows them they can get through hard things and that you will be with them as they do. You are building character, and each time you do this it will become easier for the child to handle it the next time.
- Observe your own behavior to see if you and other adults in your child’s life are modeling good sportsmanship. The adults closest to a child (in particular the same-sex parent) are the people they look to the most as a model for their behavior. Do you make excuses for your own difficulties or when things don’t go your way? Blame your boss when something goes wrong? Yell at the coach or referees? Criticize your kid’s teacher in front of them? How do you react when your team loses or your child doesn’t make a team? Decide what you can do to be a better example of a good loser for your child.
- Expect your child to be responsible for their own actions and remind them that everyone has bad days and everyone makes mistakes – even coaches, referees, and teammates. Make your child accountable every time they have a bad attitude such as making excuses, blaming others, booing, or criticizing someone.
- Encourage your child to watch how others act when they lose and use it as a teachable moment.
- Teach your child to encourage their teammates and look for the positives. Good sports and good teammates support and encourage each other.
- Help your child bounce back from disappointments in games and sports, as this is good preparation for real life.
As your child grows they will have the skills in place to help them handle many different kinds of loss, such as the loss of a job or a relationship. It is likely they will turn to those who helped them handle a loss previously when they need help again. Be that person for them when they are young.