Does your child cry or get angry when they lose a game? Do you do everything you can to make sure your child wins? Some children become furious when they lose. They cry and shout and sometimes tip the game over.

Being a good loser is a vital skill for your child to learn to cope well with playground games and sports at school. So it’s worth investing the time and effort to get this right.

Why are some children bad losers?

Many children feel their sense of importance is linked to being able to win. That’s why they find losing so hard.

If your child only feels their sense of worth is tied up to them being the winner, it’s time to make a few important changes:

How can you teach a child to win and lose well?

1. Give your child plenty of descriptive praise

Give your child plenty of positive comments, at least ten times every day so they don’t feel their self-worth is just related to winning.

Tell your child everything you love about them:

  • Their appearance
  • Their personality
  • Their behaviour
  • Their characteristics
  • Their inventiveness
  • Their creativity
  • Their enthusiasm
  • Their sense of humour
  • Anything that shows you’ve noticed THEM, what they’re like, and what makes them special.

That way your child doesn’t feel they have to win to prove they’re important.

Don’t forget to give your child plenty of descriptive praise if they stay calm when they lose. Praise them even if they look and sound miserable. Gradually they’ll learn to lose with good grace.  So, you might say “Even though it’s tough when you don’t win, you remembered to stay calm. That took a lot of self-control.”

2. Teach your child what to do if they win or lose a game

Discuss what they should say if they lose. Do you want them to say: “Well-played! Well done! Congratulations!” Or just give the winner a high five.

When they win, what do you want them to do? Say: “Good game! Give a high five?”  What would feel OK to the loser?

When your child has a strategy, or knows what to do, it makes it easier for them to stay calm if they lose

You might like to watch some YouTube videos of good examples of sportsmanship, and some bad ones, so your child can see the difference.

If a child has a strategy to use, and has a chance to practice it at home, they’ll find it easier to stop themselves getting angry if they lose a game at school or on the sports field. Being a good sport if they lose a game is an important life skill, which will help them cope better with disappointments and difficulties later on in life.

3. Ask them questions before you play a game.

Children don’t always remember the right way to behave. So, when you’re just about to play a game, or your child is just about to play a video game, ask them:

  • “If you win, what will you say and do? Can you remember?”
  • “And if you lose, what will you say and do?”

If you’re getting near the end of a game, and there is no chance your child can win, remind them again: “Can you remember what you’ll say if you lose?”

That way your child is more likely to remember

4. Allow your child to lose

To teach your child to lose well, you need to give them some practice. Where you can, it’s important to stick to the rules of the game, rather than changing them so that your child is more likely to win. So, your child learns how to play fair.

Having said that, no one wants to lose a game every time, so it’s good to give your child a an equal chance of winning. That may involve extra turns before you start to play, or a head start. That way, if you win, your child feels it was fair, and has an opportunity to use their new strategies.

5. Empathise if your child loses

Empathy is the quickest way to calm a child down if they get angry when they lose. So, do remember to empathise if they do lose:

  • “It’s tough losing, I get that.”
  • “You tried really hard.”
  • “It’s hard when you lose, especially when it was so close.”

6. Get them to earn screen time by staying calm

If your child gets angry when they lose playing video games, get them to earn their gaming time the next day by staying calm.

You might say “If you can stay calm when playing today, and turn your game off at the right time, you can earn your full hours’ screen time tomorrow. If you get angry or upset, or there’s a big argument turning your game off, you won’t earn any screen time tomorrow. So you have a choice. What are you going to choose?”

7. Help your child enjoy playing, rather than just winning

Finally, when you play with your child, help them learn to just enjoy playing the game, even if they don’t win. Try to include a bit of banter, and some playfulness, so your child can learn to have fun just playing with you.

If you invest a bit of time implementing these seven skills, your child is going to find it easier making and keeping friends, dealing with playground life, and losing a game on the sports field.

The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here