Easter Egg: Nobody wants to raise a kid who’s a sore loser. But both winning and losing can be tough for kids to handle graciously – especially in today’s competitive, me-me-me environment. Learning how to be good sports, accept defeat with grace, and not be sore losers are all life skills that will benefit our kids forever . Here are some great ideas about using family board games as a bit of magic to show your angel one more way to be angelic!
You Know Who I’m Talking About
There’s one in every office, neighborhood, team, or club. The sore loser. He clenches his teeth and snarks “congratulations…” after you get the promotion you earned for all your hard work. Or maybe it’s the gal who huffs off the tennis court mumbling “good game…” with her hand “outstretched” but never quite making contact with yours. Maybe it’s the mom who “accidentally” bumps you as she stomps from the room once your hard work on the school fundraiser has been acknowledged.
Nobody likes working or playing with these guys. And, as parents, we definitely don’t want to raise our kids to be sore losers. There are more important values at stake – nurturing a growth mindset, camaraderie on a team, sportsmanship, integrity, having a good time, or making sure you don’t ruin somebody else’s good time.
Winning Is Great – But At What Cost?
Not that winning isn’t great; it is. I get it – we all like to win. I am a recovered litigator – I freaking love to win!
But winning isn’t everything. It isn’t even the most important thing.
And once your kids start to think that winning is everything, they can easily become sore losers.
Whether they win or lose isn’t at the heart of loving our kids – and these are all terrific reasons to teach our kids how to be gracious losers.
But here’s the good news! Losing graciously is a skill. This means that it is something that can be taught, learned, practiced, and mastered.
How Do I Teach My Child Not To Be A Sore Loser?
Family board games are a terrific way to start even the youngest members of your family learning how to lose with grace. And equally important – they can practice winning with grace as well.
And having a family game night will provide the necessary repetition for each of these skills to be practiced and mastered.
Board Games Help Teach Kids Not To Be Sore Losers
Board games are an excellent way to gain some extra bonding time with family and friends, to create deeper connections, as well as help develop imagination.
Unfortunately when it comes to playing games, there is typically a winner and a loser. No one wants to lose, but unfortunately someone usually has to. (Unless, you opt for a cooperative board game where everyone works together as a team to win! So, you win or lose together!)
This is a great way to start playing board games together if you worry that your child is really competitive and may have a tough time starting out!
Here are some tips to help your kids be gracious losers. It’s a skill that will benefit them throughout their life!
Set Expectations About Winning And Losing
When you sit down together, to play a board game, set expectations for everyone at the outset. This is especially important for your littlest ones or your super competitive ones. Everyone intuitively understands that you aren’t playing to see who can win. But a little reminder never hurts.
Start by reviewing the rules of the game, and remind little ones that there will be a winner and a loser at the end of the game.
Also explain that it is okay to be the person that loses. Each game you play will have a different outcome, and just because one person loses this time, does not mean they will lose every time they play a game.
When you child loses, simply remind them that you understand that it is disappointing not to win. But losing sometimes happens, and it is ok.
Let them know you thoroughly enjoyed spending time together doing something fun! And, after all, this was one of the reasons you were playing in the first place!
Even having set expectations at the beginning, we all know that losing never comes easily, especially when you are young. It’s tough at a young age not to be a sore loser!
Be empathetic toward your child if they end up in tears. A simple hug and reminding them that you, too, know how it feels to lose. Remind them that while they are sad and disappointed now, it will pass. I often offer to sit with them until the big feelings pass.
Share how you would respond, in order to help him manage his feelings differently next time.
Also, remember that board games also do a great job at helping families bond which will naturally grow your child’s empathy.
Model Good Sportsmanship for Your Sore Loser
When it comes to winning and losing, there’s no better role model than parents. When you yell at referees or teachers or you do the major victory dance when you win – your child will pick up on your reaction to winning and losing. And they will see you as a sore loser.
This modeling goes beyond games. How do you respond when you lose your place in line? How do you respond when something rings up at a higher price than you expected? Our children watch all of these daily responses to “mini loses.”
You are always their first teacher; show your kids how to be kind and empathetic no matter whether they win or lose.
Let Them Win – But It’s Not Why You Think!
So many parents let their children win at games so that they don’t have to experience the loss or the disappointment. But I think this is a bad idea. Actually – it makes me a bit cringy. It feels dishonest.
It’s actually from experiencing losing that they become more comfortable with the process and the feelings that come with losing. And, therefore, transform from a sore loser into a gracious loser. Nobody wants to lose – it simply just doesn’t feel good.
But, here’s a thought. What if you ask your child if she wants you to let her win?
“Why would I do this,” you ask? Well. What if she agrees that you should let her win? Then you’ve just created a terrific opportunity to show her how a gracious loser behaves!
The truth of the matter is – our kids won’t even make it through first grade without “losing” at something. And certainly they won’t make it through life without ever losing.
So, let’s teach them how to handle the inevitable disappointment.
Children can become angry and frustrated when they don’t win. But it’s important to remind them that they may not have the skills to win, “yet.”
When they understand that they have control over learning and practicing the skills that will help them improve, it puts them into a growth, instead of a fixed, mindset.
I’m sure you’ve heard about nurturing a growth mindset in your kids. We’ve recently started using the Big Life Journal for Kids (and they have one specifically for teens that I’ve just ordered) so that we can continuously nurture this mindset. Confession: It’s great for me too!
My Favorite Tools For Developing A Growth Mindset
Acknowledge Good Sportsmanship
Each time your kiddo does a great job handling a loss, let them know. Offer praise not just for being a good sport, but for their behavior, and for other things as well. Perhaps your child tried a new strategy, after learning from a previous mistake. Maybe he simply showed good effort, and did his best to carry on, even if the outcome was not looking good. Offering a bit of genuine praise at the end, will make your child feel better, even if he did not win the game.
Teaching your kids not to be sore losers with board games is a process. At the start of it, you may have a crying child, but by the end of implementing these ideas, your kids will be able to lose gracefully.
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