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 compete for points. She won the Yellow House. I was very happy for my daughter because last year she won the green house. In fact, when the winning house was announced last year, many faces turned sour. There were a lot of tears and tantrums and the kids were bitter because they had lost.

This was not right! She wanted to tell the kids “It’s okay to lose.”

A few months later I began to notice that my son was also becoming more and more competitive. As a mother, this was the first time for me. I really wasn’t sure what to do or say to help my daughter understand that she didn’t have to be first in everything.

My daughter wanted to win the daily math knockouts. She wanted to receive an assembly award each week. She started coming home upset when she only got 9 out of 10 on her spelling. My son felt sad when he lost a board game. In his mind, he had to win it all. The world was black or white, you won or lost, there was no middle ground.

Despite this new challenge, the competition was becoming increasingly 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 both me and my daughter. She now she has mastered a healthy attitude and can enjoy the successes of it. She doesn’t get mad when she loses. She accepts it gracefully because she knows it’s not possible to be the best at everything all the time. Nobody is perfect.

With this 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 we are all different.

As parents, we can teach young children that we are all different and unique. We can talk to our children about the fact that every child has talents. Sarah can be fast at running, while Joe is good at drawing. John may be good at counting, but not so 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 be ready to learn that they can’t be the best at everything and that it’s okay to do better in one subject or talent than another.

Teach kids that it’s okay to lose

Losing is never fun. From a young age, children learn that winning is the best result. As parents, it’s important to teach our children that it’s okay to lose. We can talk to the kids 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 daughter how she would feel if she lost every time. She said that she would be very sad. I explained to him that we all need turns to win, which helps us feel happy, but we can also be happy when a friend wins, since we can feel happy for them.

(This really was a turning point in understanding my daughter. She still wants to win, but if she doesn’t, now she can say, well at least my friend won and that’s good for them)

Teach children that achieving and winning take hard work.

As parents we can teach our children that to be good at something we have to practice. If my daughter wants to get a high score on her spelling, then we have to practice the words every day. I’ve worked hard to teach my son that it’s okay to be “just good” and do average in school and sports. However, you also know that if you want to do “better”, you have to put in the effort.

I teach my son that in everything we do, there is “good, better, and better.” While it is 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 aspire to be the best they can be but to remain happy even if they have not improved in the way they would have liked.

The principle of “good, better, better” can really help in any situation in life, not only when we compete but also in everything we choose to do. This is the case for both adults and children. We can celebrate the good in our lives, our good achievements and teach children that the fact that we have not won or achieved the perfect result does not make us less valuable as individuals.

Teach children to have fun.

Many times it can be easy to forget the fun of learning, playing and competing when one is only focused on the end result or 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 caught up in the competitive side. Of course it is important to try to win a race or win a board game, however it is not the end of the world if we do not win.

I talk to my son and remind him that playing with mom and dad is spending time together and having fun. It’s not just about winning. My daughter likes to play Uno. She likes to keep score and of course she is disappointed when she has worked hard to win and she doesn’t. In this scenario she used a “technical redirection”. She redirected her focus to the fact that we had fun together and that we could play again another day instead of 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 the loss in a positive way, and to move on even when they do not achieve the desired outcome.

Teach children that not everything is competition. Teach the importance of teamwork and work together to achieve it.

We can teach our children to work together 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 waste paper in a bucket and weigh it at the end of the week. We put the results on a graph and then put it in the recycle bin. This is a fun activity that promotes teamwork rather than pitting one another 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. The most important thing is that we can lead by example. Instead of competing with each other, my husband and I try to work together to achieve our goals and we show it to our son. We set family goals and celebrate with joint rewards.

By teaching children to be resilient now, we can prepare them for adult life in the future. Our children can learn to compete for fun and learn to bounce back from life’s failures and disappointments.

We can talk to our kids about the competition. We can lead by example and show our children that losing a game or failing a test is not the end and it is everything. Losing is simply a chance to try again and a chance to be more successful.

I believe that parenting is the most important role in life. Raising emotionally healthy children is very important for the future generation and by teaching our children the above principles we can help them navigate through life’s obstacles and they will learn to compete in healthy ways throughout their lives.

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