Hard Lessons For Kids – Learning How To Lose

by Amber Stiles on August 14, 2012

Today I beat Alexa at Tic Tac Toe.  She was displeased.  We start another hard life lesson that kids HAVE to learn – how to lose gracefully.  So how does one go about explaining to a three year old that it’s good to lose?  How do you instill good sportsmanship into your child?

Teach Your Kids to Lose With GraceI’ll be honest.  I let her win the first game.  I was trying to explain the rules…that I knew she wouldn’t understand completely…while teaching her how to make her X’s and O’s.  So I showed her how to “block” me from winning.  She did so with prompting.  During the next game I tried to show her how to do it again but she was more concerned with doodling.

So I struck the winning blow (or well….O…HA!).

She cried.  Mean Mommy!

I tried to explain how there are many times in life where you will win and many you will lose.  It’s natural.  It’s life.  I don’t want a super crazy competitive kid…but I also do want a “trophy for trying” every single time.  Ya know?  I know you know!   I want to raise a good sport.  A kid (and eventually an adult) that wins and loses with grace.  No nanny nanny poo poo chanting here please.

So how do I do that?  The consensus seems to be:

Model The Behavior

If you’re disappointed in something, let your kid see…but let them see you cope with it rationally.  Praise effort, praise the winner, accept your lose.

Emphasize Doing Your Best

Trying is sometimes as hard as winning for some kids.  Getting them to step out of their comfort zone when they may, GASP, lose…is a big deal.  Make sure they know you’re behind them 100% no matter the outcome and that giving their best effort is just as important as winning.

Let Them Lose!

Stop letting your kid win all the silly games you play at home.  Stop letting them think they’re the smartest people in the whole wide world.  Let them taste disappointment a little bit at a time in a safe environment.  Ease them into it.

Set Rules

Correct your child if they have a fit over losing.  Remind them that it’s not acceptable to lash out.  Remind them that games are supposed to be fun!

Talk About Winning AND Losing

Talk about how it feels when they’re on either side.  Teach them to verbalize the hurt and the joy.

Here’s to hoping I can teach both girls how to play games for fun, how to compete without becoming competive, and how to win AND lose in ways that respect their game and their opponents.


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

allisonthemeep August 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Oh, man. We went through this with Julian. Kids really hate to lose.


Amber Stiles August 15, 2012 at 2:40 am

That they do. I’m just now realizing how hard parenting really is. Kids need instructions dammit!


Melissa August 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm

A tough lesson, indeed. I find myself struggling with how to convey this to my boys, too. I want them to WANT to win, but not be too upset when they don’t. :)


Amber Stiles August 15, 2012 at 2:41 am

I totally agree. Of coures I want Alexa to want to win. To do her best. But I really don’t want her entire self esteeme wrapped up in getting the best grade or biggest trophy. This IS hard.


ilene August 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm

my oldest was born competitive. she would do anything to win – even cheat! how do I deal with THAT?


Amber Stiles August 15, 2012 at 2:43 am

Yikes, I didn’t even think of that. Cheating! How DO you deal with it? I just assumed you had super chill kiddos that practiced meditation and yoga with you ;D But really…how do you even explain losing to a kid that wants to win at all costs?

Have you had to deal with cheating in school for better grades too?


Tracy August 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Ugh. Whenever Lotte loses (which is often), she gets upset and then NEVER WANTS TO PLAY AGAIN. Seriously, NEVER. So lame.


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