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How to Teach Your Child About Healthy Competition – It’s Okay to Lose
Last week was Sports Day at my daughter’s school. She was part of the Yellow House. She had to wear yellow and run for points. The yellow house won. I was really happy for my daughter because last year the greenhouse won. In fact, when the winning house was announced last year, many little faces turned sour. There were many tears and tantrums and the children were bitter because they had lost.
It wasn’t fair! I wanted to say to the children “it’s good to lose”.
A few months later, I started noticing that my child was also becoming more and more competitive. As a mother, this was a first for me. I really didn’t know what to do or what to say to help my daughter understand that she didn’t have to come first.
My daughter wanted to win the daily math knockouts. She wanted to get an assembly prize every week. She began to come home upset when she only got 9 out of 10 in her spelling. My child felt sad when he lost a board game. In her mind, she had to win it all. The world was black or white, winning or losing, there was no middle ground.
Despite this new challenge, competition was becoming more and more problematic for my daughter and something had to be done to help her understand and learn that it is okay to lose.
Teaching my daughter to compete in a healthy way has been a learning curve for me and my child. She has now mastered a healthy attitude and is able to rejoice in her successes. She doesn’t get mad when she loses. She accepts it with grace because she knows it’s not possible to be the best at everything, all the time. Nobody is perfect.
With that in mind, I’m sharing some tips on how to teach your child about healthy competition and that it’s okay to lose.
Teach children that everyone is different.
As parents, we can teach young children that everyone is different and unique. We can talk with our children about the fact that every child has talents. Sarah may be fast at running, while Joe is good at drawing. John may be good at counting, but less good at writing. Emma may be good at swimming but not so good at singing.
As a child begins to understand that they have different talents, strengths and weaknesses, they will then be ready to learn that they cannot be the best at everything and that it is okay to do better in one subject or talent than another.
Teach children that it’s okay to lose
Losing is never fun. From an early age, children understand that winning is the best outcome. As parents, it’s important to teach our children that it’s okay to lose. We can talk to children about the importance of everyone having a chance to win. We can teach our children to be happy for their friends when a friend wins.
I asked my child how she would feel if she lost every time. She said she would be really sad. I explained to him that we all need spins to win, which helps us feel happy, but we can also be happy when a friend wins because we can feel happy for him.
(It was really a turning point in my daughter’s understanding. She still wants to win but if she doesn’t she is now able to say, well at least my friend won and that’s good for her)
Teach children that success and winning takes hard work.
As parents, we can teach our children that to be good at anything, we have to practice. If my daughter wants to score high in spelling, we need to practice the words every day. I’ve worked hard to teach my child that it’s okay to be “just good” and average in school and sports. However, she also knows that if she wants to do “better”, she has to put in the effort.
I teach my child that in everything we do, there is “the good, the best and the best”. While it’s important to do our best, we can be happy when we simply do better than last time or get a good or average score. We can teach children to aim to be the best they can be but to stay happy even if they haven’t improved as they would have liked.
The principle of “good, better, best” can really help in all situations in life, not just when we are in competition, but also in whatever we choose to do. This is the case for both adults and children. We can celebrate the good in our lives, our good accomplishments, and teach children that just because we didn’t win or get the perfect result doesn’t mean we are worth less as individuals.
Teach children to have fun.
Often it can be easy to overlook the fun of learning, playing and competing when all the focus is on the end result or on winning the game or getting the highest score.
We can teach our children to be good athletes and to enjoy participating in a game or activity without getting carried away by competition. Of course it’s important to try to win a race or win a board game however it’s not the end of the world if you don’t win.
I talk to my child and remind him that playing games with mom and dad is about spending time together and having fun. It’s not just about winning. My daughter loves playing Uno. She likes to keep score and of course she is disappointed when she tried to win and doesn’t. In this scenario, I’m using a “redirection technique”. I redirect her attention to the fact that we had fun together and can play again another day rather than the fact that she lost.
As children get older, they will be exposed to more and more competition. It is important that we teach our children to learn to “bounce back” from losses, to experience loss in a positive way, and to carry on even when they do not achieve the desired outcome.
Teach children that not everything is a competition. Teach the importance of teamwork and working together to achieve success.
We can teach our children to work as a team to set goals and participate in activities that bring us together as a team. A good example can be found in recycling. As a family, we collect our old papers in a bucket and weigh them at the end of the week. We put the results on a board and then put it in the recycling bin. This is a fun activity that promotes teamwork rather than working against each other to see who can collect the most paper.
Teaching our children to work together is an important principle. We could use cooperative games or create activities at home. More importantly, we can lead by example. Rather than competing with each other, my husband and I try to work together to achieve our goals and we demonstrate that to our child. We set family goals and celebrate with joint rewards.
By teaching children to be resilient now, we can prepare them for adult life tomorrow. Our children can learn to compete for fun and learn to bounce back from life’s setbacks and disappointments.
We can talk about competition to our children. We can teach by example and show our children that losing a match or failing a test is not the end of everything. Losing is simply a chance to try again and a chance to be more successful.
I believe that parenthood is the most important role in life. Raising emotionally healthy children is so important for the future generation and by teaching our children the above principles, we can help them overcome life’s obstacles and they will learn to compete in healthy ways throughout their lives.
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