My Family

My Family
Summer 2015

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Teach your child how to lose

I had a wonderfully amazing Psychology professor in college that taught so well. She was funny, and compassionate, but also smart as a whip!  I loved her dearly.  But, the most memorable thing that I consciously took from all the classes she taught was "teach your child how to lose".  Not that winning is a sin.  Or that we should give in to someone and let them win---competition is very healthy.
What I am talking about is this:  If we can teach children how to lose well, we are teaching them life lessons.  If we can teach them how to lose at tic tac toe or Uno or baseball, they will have skills to take with them when the bigger things in life hit--a friend that betrays them, loss of a job, or even the loss of someone they love.  We show them compassion in their loss, but also that life continues to move forward and we can chose how we are going to react in our loss.

While parenting, I have to admit I've had my moments of weakness in this area just because I don't want to deal with the "blow up" if "someone" doesn't win or I feel bad that Lucas can't win in a swimming race in the pool.  Yes, I've let him win.  But, if we always let our kids "win" just to make them feel good, we may be doing more damage than good.

The truth of the matter is, other kids won't be so kind. They are there to win just as much as my kid. Circumstances in life won't always be that kind either.  There is disappointment in loss--so how do you teach your kid to deal with that disappointment?

Now let's toss in one more factor here.  If your whole life prior to the last year and a half or so has been full of pain and loss---and no one to teach you what to do with that pain and loss---then what?  You get to an Uno game and if you don't win, the whole blasted thing blows up and you throw cards!  Yep, that's what it can be like at our house.  How do you teach a child that has experienced extreme loss how to deal with "simple" loss--like an Uno game?


Oma and Opa, who show up and give Lucas plenty of opportunity for winning and losing at -- you guessed it Uno!
They like to play cards.  So we have been playing a lot of Uno.  Many months ago I posted how Lucas was improving on game play.  But, he really has taken hold of it now and is playing his own hand even to the extent that he knows how to "get" people with Draw Four and Draw Two cards, etc.  He chuckles with an evil sort of laugh when he gets to play those cards.

But, one thing he has really struggled with is losing.  It's not easy for anyone.  I get that.  But, he would throw in the whole game, march away and not come back if he didn't win.  Sometimes he'd throw the cards or just get plain ugly.  Even the first few days we played with Oma and Opa 2 weeks ago, he showed his inability to deal with loss.

However, last night we played 3 rounds of the game and he didn't win at all.  He got upset--but not ugly.  More sad I think.  But, he shook hands with the winners and walked away from the table peacefully when we were done.  Even Oma commented on how much he has changed since we started playing 2 weeks ago.  That's how it is with him.  When the switch goes on and he starts to understand that he doesn't have to fight for everything, he becomes very reasonable and he learns.  I think he also is realizing we will be playing more games so this is not his last chance to win.  He doesn't have to go to battle over this loss.  And he doesn't need to be afraid of not winning.

In some ways I think watching the Olympics this week has helped him see this too.  He has watched many a vicotry and cheered people on.  But, he has seen disappointment and loss too.  He has also seen gracious losers.  Sometimes loss comes with tears.  But, nobody has stomped off, thrown a fit or acted irrationally.  Whenever there is a winner, there is also a loser.  Not everyone can come in first place.

At the end of the night--again laying in his bed--I told him how proud I was of him for the way he handled the game.  His sweet lower lip began to quiver.  I asked why he was crying.  He was "happy". Then he said..
"Mom, you know why I did that?--"  
"no Lucas why?"
"Because you taught me how"

(guess who was in tears then???)


  1. Oh. His words bring me to tears. Sweet boy. I guess it's not so amazing that we can learn many lessons from children. I'm glad he is learning to lose gracefully.

  2. sweet, precious boy. love him (and you so!) and thanks for making me dew up this morning!!

  3. Yes! He watches everything his family does. He learns how to be around others right now, at this time of his life, from you! And he KNOWS it! Smart guy. :)