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The Sore Loser

November 17th, 2011 by Rachel Stuhler

No one likes to lose. But it’s a fact of life that we’re not always going to emerge (be it from a game, or an argument, or a competition) as a winner. This is a concept easily explained to adults, but how do you teach a child to be a good loser?

This week on “Parenthood,” over-achievers Joel and Julia finally reached a stumbling block with the usually angelic Sydney. It seems that while teaching their precious darling that she’s good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like her, they neglected to include the fact that she’s not better than everyone else. And they also soon realize that for Sydney’s entire six years, they’ve let her win every game.

We don’t want our kids to hurt and we don’t want them to lose. We want to teach them to be winners, to strive for the best in every situation. But we have to realize that winners do know how to lose; they do their best, and when the situation doesn’t come out in their favor, the best winners learn from what didn’t work.

Of course, with a small child, instilling this lesson is easier said than done. At this age, kids are completely of the moment. They don’t readily grasp that this one occasion isn’t the beginning, middle, and end of the story. And since they can’t conceptualize the next steps, it’s our job to do that for them.

Acknowledge that they are upset, but explain that throwing a tantrum didn’t suddenly make them win the game that was already lost. Teach them that everyone has a bad day once in a while. And though you may be sorely tempted, don’t let them win every time. If a child learns about disappointment from smaller issues, they’ll adapt better to the big ones, saving everyone a lot of stress.