9 steps to losing correctly

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/11/2014

Losing is not fun for your young athlete. But it is inevitable, and teaching your child how to lose properly is just as important as teaching manners, honesty and responsibility.

I watched an episode of “Parenthood” once where an 8-year-old became very angry whenever she lost while playing games with her parents. Mom and dad sent her to her room, and the rest of the night she cried and yelled mean things while mom sat outside her door getting comfort from a glass of wine.

You may have felt her frustration, too. If you have a child who goes berserk at a loss, or at the very least handles it in an unsportsmanlike way, these suggestions might help.

First, let clarify that I am not saying that your child should enjoy losing or even be OK with it. I am saying that kids need to learn to accept losing then grow from the experience.

  • Don’t sugarcoat. Losing sucks. Acknowledge that to your children. Let them know you feel their pain and love them no matter what the outcome. Tell them it is OK to be angry, but no one wins all the time.
  • Talk with your child about what it means to lose. It may mean not winning the trophy, but in that loss there is an opportunity for growth. What was learned from the experience, and how can he or she do better next time?
  • Find the small victories. Once you’ve lamented their loss, help see the good stuff that happened during the game.
  • Share your own personal losses and frustrations. Kids need to know that we all experience disappointment.
  • Let your kids see you lose. They are watching closely. How you handle it sends a huge message to your kids. How do YOU handle it? Because chances are that’s how your child will handle it, too.
  • When you watch sports together, discuss the good and bad behavior of pro and college athletes.
  • Take your kids to games where the athletes are a little older than them. Let them observe good and bad sports. Talk about it during the game or on the way home
  • Encourage your child to congratulate others after the game.  Of course, most teams require the “good game, good game” line-up – always sounds like a bunch of bees buzzing to me – but talk to your kid about taking it a step further. Shake the other coach’s hand after the game. Seek out players from the opposing team who really worked hard and tell them good job. My kids have had opposing players do that to them, and it always meant a lot.
  • Talk with your children about good plays their own teammates had and suggest that they give a high five or “good job” the player. Of course, it starts with you modeling that. If your kids see you do it to their teammates, they may follow.

As parents, we must teach our kids that everyone fails, and you can’t win all the time. Our job is to help them learn to deal with it constructively and help them grow through the pain.

Janis  B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Check out her Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series with survival guides for football, softball, basketball and volleyball moms.