We’ve had the best time this spring playing softball, and by “we”, I really do mean we! The girls are playing, I’m coaching, and suddenly our Saturdays are full of dusty drama.
While most games are fun—that’s the point, they’re learning!—there are still outs made, lost games, and dropped balls, which mean plenty of tears. I’m thankful my girls can learn about losing when I’m around to help them navigate the pitfalls to deal with defeat.
I’m not a parent who thinks everyone should always get a trophy or that no one should ever lose a game. Losing teaches you just as much as winning, maybe even more! If I gave up every time a recipe didn’t work in the kitchen, I never would’ve learned to cook. If you have to deal with defeat this year, whether in sports, in school, or playing board games at home, try these 5 clever solutions to teach your child how to do so with grace.
When you play games at home, don’t let them win. Sure, you can play for practice until everyone knows the rules, but then it’s important that they watch you win and lose, and see how you react. Do you congratulate the winner? Do you sulk if you lose? Call yourself (or someone else) stupid? Show them that the joy is in trying again, and that it’s only fun if everyone plays.
It’s ok for your child to be disappointed that he lost; that means he was invested and playing hard! Don’t diminish those hard-earned feelings by saying, “It’s only a game” or “It doesn’t really matter anyway.” Help provide him with language to express his anger, frustration, or sadness. “You’re sad because we didn’t win, but you say you tried your best and I’m proud of you. Let’s practice so we can do better next time.”
No one wants to be the mom in the stands constantly harping or coaching from the sidelines, but the truth is you know your kid better than anyone else. Is she paying attention? Is she running her hardest? Is she trying? If not, encourage her to do her best (no one else’s!). When she falls short of her goal, you can remind her that she was playing at her highest level, and that sometimes we all need a little more practice!
While teenagers may shirk hearing stories of mom’s glory days, younger kids often need a reminder that mom is a human too. Tell them tales of your big wins and gutting losses, and remind them of their own! “Remember last year when you couldn’t hit the ball and had to use the tee? You practiced hard and now you can hit it! If we work on catching now, you’ll be even better next year.”
If you only praise your kids when they win, they’ll think winning is the only thing worth valuing. Teach them that you’re proud that they tried, of how they picked themselves back up, or how they worked hard to get out of a tough spot. We aren’t teaching our kids softball because they’re going to be professional softball players (that I know of!), but they do have to be humans, always, and humans try, fail, and try again. Praise the effort, sportsmanship, and smart thinking, win or lose, and you’ll end up with a happy, well rounded-adult that may just be the star of their work softball league someday.
How do you help your child deal with defeat? Are you pro participation trophy? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!