Growing up I reckon my 3 sisters and I finished board games about 20% of the time. Often the game would end when one person (usually me) was exposed for cheating; or as soon as it was inevitable one of us would lose, the board would become airborne. To this day I don’t know how a game of Monopoly ends.
Some would say we were competitive bunch, others a bunch of sore losers.
Often it is a fine line between the two.
It’s true that nobody likes a sore loser. So what do you do if your child’s competitiveness boils over into sore loser territory?
Here’s 5 things you should try.
- Praise effort not outcome.
If a child thinks the only way they will get a pat on the back is by winning, then that is what they will concentrate on. To them anything but a win will not be good enough. The pressure to always win builds and their under developed brains will not be able to cope – resulting in unsociable behavior.
The fact is; nobody wins all the time. Teach your child that the effort they apply to the game is more important than winning. If they give their all and lose, then that’s ok…it doesn’t mean they are a failure, they just need to get better at what they do. Sore losers don’t understand this; they are more likely to blame someone else for them losing and can’t consider their own contribution towards the outcome.
- Don’t ‘let’ them win.
As much as you think it is easier to ‘let’ them win e.g. board games, darts etc, it just doesn’t help them. It just reinforces that they ‘always need’ to win. As a parent you don’t have to be ultra competitive, just don’t throw the game to avoid a tantrum. It is far better to understand that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, you have to learn how to deal with both. My kids know that I will never ‘allow’ them to win at anything. Success must be earned or it isn’t a success.
- Show them how.
Regardless of the result, insist your child shows good grace after a game by shaking an opponents hand, and saying well done to the ref. Quite often the child becomes a sore loser because you have opened the door to allowing the bad behavior. Did you give in when they threw the tantrum or did you refuse to take them to McDonalds after they stormed off the field?
‘You get what you settle for’, so think about the bad behavior you have settled for in the past and agree not to tolerate it anymore. Role modeling good behavior is one of the most important jobs you have.
- Teach your child about feelings
Help your child recognize when they are sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed etc. Talk about how they are ‘feeling’ after a game, not just the game itself. Recognizing when and why they are frustrated helps the child deal with the emotions they are feeling. Combine this with coping strategies like deep breathing, removing himself from the situation or verbalizing that he is frustrated. This will help prevent the ‘uncontrolled behavior’ that sore losers exhibit. Invest time and energy into teaching your child specific anger management skills that will help him/her tolerate losing.
5. Remind them why they play
Winning should never be the sole measure of success for kids. Playing sport at junior level should be more about fun, improvement, friends and activity than it is about winning…so make sure your child recognises this. Your first question should always be ‘did you have fun today?’ Sore losers lose perspective and see only win/loss as a measurement. Remind the kids of the other fun things besides winning. Point out small things they did in the game so they know that they don’t have to win in order to get praise from you or be seen as a good person.
Now, all this doesn’t mean you have to be ‘happy’ with losing. There aren’t many champions who are happy about losing. Playing to win is an important part of sports and indeed life. Again the key is keeping everything in perspective.
Without perspective a sore loser is unable to properly assess ‘why’ they lost or figure out what they ‘need to do’ to avoid losing again. This ability to reflect upon an event and make changes is vital.
It’s what good losers do….it’s what champions do,
About the author:
Nathan Burke started his career as a schoolteacher before the demands of elite level football with St Kilda F.C. took over. Following a successful corporate career he founded Nathan Burke Consulting – a Melbourne based firm that offers High Performance Training and Coaching solutions to corporates, schools and sports teams.