One of the most common challenges we see when working with kids, is difficulty with losing. Many rounds of Pop Up Pirate have ended in tears and scattered game pieces. For children, losing can feel very unexpected and extremely frustrating. Learning how to win respectfully and lose gracefully is an important skill to develop in order to successfully navigate friendships.
If your child struggles in this area, it’s important that you approach them with empathy and understanding while they are working towards building their resilience and ability to understand that losing a game is expected and manageable. As adults, we play a crucial role in supporting them to stay emotionally regulated during this process.
Here are some ways to thoughtfully approach and practice winning and losing:
- Play games that have many small opportunities to win or lose. These can be positive competitive experiences because the small losses are more manageable. For example, when playing Uno, you can support them by commenting, “yes, you had to take 2 more cards but look! Now you have a cool card where you can change the colour. Maybe you can use that next time.” Children can see there are future opportunities where they might win.
- Learning to win respectfully – You can model appropriate phrases to use when your child wins. For example, “that was a great game! It was so fun to play together”. Give gentle but clear feedback about how their words might make others feel. For instance, “I think your friend is feeling sad when you said “I won, and you lost!” He is frowning his face”.
- Learning to lose gracefully – You can validate their emotions gently and calmly and bring attention to how their behaviour is affecting others. “I can see that you are upset about losing. That’s okay. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. It looks like your friend is surprised and upset that you threw the game pieces on the floor”. When they do lose, and handle it well, highlight this in the moment, “Wow! I love how you managed that loss. You are really becoming a good sport.”
Author: Kaylee Cho – Occupational Therapist