March Parenting Tip: Teach your Child to Lose Like a Champ!

My boys just lost their first soccer game EVER.  When they realized the game was over and the score was 1-0, not in their favor, the looks on their faces were one of confusion. “Wait, what..we lost? I don’t understand what that means”.  All the parents looked at each other as we were standing on the sidelines and it wasn’t clear who was more upset, us or them.  We were all disappointed but quickly had to get into parent mode instead of loyal soccer fan, and prepare.  I felt sad for the team as they were undefeated last season but I knew this was going to be a good learning lesson for the boys.


When kids are younger, everyone wants to protect them from the feeling of losing.  In little league, there were no outs and everyone got a chance to hit, no matter how long it took…and I will tell you it took a long time, but at least everyone was happy.  Now they are getting older and at some point, someone has to lose.  This time, it was them, and it was an emotion they were not familiar with and unsure of how to handle.

Losing is never easy, whether you’re a kid or an adult, but we all know no one can win at everything.  There are really two sides of this topic.  Is it a good thing to always protect our children from reality when they will have to face it one day anyway?  Shouldn’t we shield our children from disappointment at a young age if we are able to?  No one likes to see their child upset and feeling defeated.  Of course as parents we want to erase their hurt and sadness but as adults we know it’s a part of life.  Is there a benefit to experiencing that failure as a child vs. teenager vs. adult?  Let’s face it, as much as we try, our kids are going to blame us for their therapist bills later on in life anyway.

sad-child-1371909620aOMIt killed me when we lost the game this weekend but all the times we won, someone else had to lose.  What about those kids?  I don’t think it’s a bad thing for my children to experience losing.  Even though think they are the best at everything and are the cutest, smartest and well behaved kids, so does every other parent in regard to their child.  (Well, we can agree we feel that way most of the time, except of course when they are driving us nuts and we want to scream, “what is wrong with you?”.)  There are so many things we are not gong to be able to protect them from in the years to come, like broken hearts, cliques, those awkward puberty years, bad decisions, etc.  Oh wait, sorry…was having flashbacks for a second.

Is it so bad to allow that kid to have thirty swings until he gets contact?  Is it fair for the kid that slammed it out of the park on his first try and is eager to keep the game moving?  I don’t think you can trade a little boy (or girl’s) smile and feeling of accomplishment for anything.  How about the pride on the parent’s face as they witness their little one struggle and then succeed.

Here is my parenting mantra that I drill into my children’s heads.  “As long as you try, and try your best, even if you fail, in my book you have succeeded.  If you never try at all, you automatically failed and will never know if you could have succeeded.”  Basically I am teaching them that it is okay to fail.  No one is perfect and going to be great at everything they do.  The same theory can be used for parenting.  One day you will be a Mommy Master and another day, a mommy disaster, and that is totally acceptable and normal.  You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again tomorrow.

In my book, failure is the key to success, whether you are a child or parent. Here are some words of wisdom I offered to my oldest son who is eight and did not take his soccer loss well.  My six year old could not have cared less about losing.  He said, “this sucks” and then quickly moved on to his mac ‘n cheese.  Love that little guy.

  • Someone has to win and someone has to lose.  Today, it was your team.
  • Use this opportunity to understand what you could have done better as a team.
  • You can’t win at everything.
  • I know you’re upset but this is a normal reaction and feeling you are having.
  • Let’s talk about the way you are feeling.
  • Losing is reality and everyone needs to experience it.
  • The truth is your team only let the other team score one goal so that is something to be proud of.
  • It’s a good thing to be challenged and this game was challenging.
  • Next game, use this feeling as motivation to play that much harder.
  • If you tried your best, that is all you could have done.
  • Sometimes losing makes us really appreciate our wins.
  • Despite what you may think, (insert sarcasm) Mommy is not perfect and has failed at many things in my life, but you are my best success!

My son was upset…and had every right to be.  Losing sucks, to quote my six year old!  It’s the feeling that you failed at something and weren’t good enough.  It would be easy to just say, “get over it and welcome to life kid”, but hopefully he has many years to figure that out.   All we can do as parents is support our children, bring them up when they are down, listen, and be their biggest fan…on the sidelines and in life.