5 Ways Your Child Can Cope with Losing

We're raising a generation of kids who aren't allowed to lose. In sports, school, and recreational activities - everyone is a winner. But losing and enduring disappointment is a crucial part of growing up. Mighty Mommy shares 5 ways you can balance winning and losing in your child’s everyday life.


Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #274

Last week my 8-year-old daughter attended a birthday party for a classmate.  When I picked her up at the end of the party I had great difficulty finding a place to park because there were over 30 cars parked up and down the street.  Turns out, the parents of the birthday boy allowed their other two children to invite 10 friends each because they didn’t want them to feel “left out” while they celebrated the birthday boy’s special day. 


Sadly, it appears that this mentality of making every kid always feel like a winner is becoming the norm. Today’s kids are handled with kid gloves so as not to leave them with hurt feelings. Families, teachers, coaches, and just about everyone kids come into contact with work to spare any disappointment and magically turn losses into wins.

Don’t get me wrong—I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of winning myself. And as the mom of 8 kids, I certainly love watching my children succeed. But I also believe they need to learn that in the real world, they won’t always be winners. In fact, losing or sometimes going unnoticed is part of life.

Today, Mighty Mommy shares 5 ways you can balance winning and losing in your child’s life.;


Tip #1: Don’t Let Your Child Win When Playing Board Games

Have you ever bent the rules of a board game so your child wouldn’t lose?  I openly admit I used to do that with my oldest child who is now 20.  It wasn’t just that I didn’t want her to feel badly about being the loser, but I thought it was such fun to watch how excited she would get when she won a round of Candyland or Go Fish.

I learned quickly, however, that this was a very bad idea.  Instead of building her self-esteem and letting her bubble over with great pride with each win, I was teaching her that she would never be a loser.  The first time she actually lost, you guessed it, she fell apart and had a 20-minute tantrum because she had never dealt with defeat.

See also; Why Should You Play Board Games with Your Kids?


We then took a little break from board games and focused on games she could play by herself such as racing against the kitchen timer to get ready for bed at night or trying to break her own speed record by running an obstacle course in the backyard and we’d clock it on a stopwatch.  This instilled a lesson that winning was about being her best possible self and that there's always room for improvement.

We then jumped back into board games and played them frequently and with lots of enthusiasm so that our family’s competitive interactions became something she really looked forward to.  She then had a regular share of victories and losses and was able to deal with both appropriately because she knew that depending on how she played or how lucky she was or how much sharper her opponent was, that would determine if she would win or lose.  This also began teaching her that the world is a competitive place. I’m glad that her first experience with losing was in the comfort of her own home rather than in a public place like in a clasroom.

Tip #2: Turn Mistakes into Learning Opportunities

If a game requires specific skills or strategies, losing gives children a chance to analyze how they might have done better. One of my kids is an avid chess player and learned to play in grade school.  She learned from her grandfather who was very patient in teaching her the strategy of the game.  At the beginning of each new game he told her he hoped she would make some good moves on the board as well as some terrible ones because then she would have the opportunity to turn her mistake into a learning opportunity.   

This goes for older kids as well.  It took my honors student child three tries to get her driver’s permit.  One portion of the test really gave her problems but she insisted she knew the material inside and out.  After the second time, she felt very defeated, especially because she was only 1 point off!  The Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t care if you're off by 20 points or 1—you need to answer enough questions correctly to get your permit.  On the third try she scored a 98 and felt victorious because she put the extra time into studying.  

See also: 6 Ways to Spring Clean Your Parenting Life


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!