Coping with winning and losing

The winter sport season sees most of us crowding the sidelines of pitches, courts, and fields up and down the country in support of our kids’ sporting endeavours. Frosty mornings, freezing evenings, the excitement, the challenge – we do it because we love to be there and support them to do their best. But kids struggling to cope with disappointment can be a major stumbling block to many families’ enjoyment of sport.

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No matter what they play, whether there’s a team to work with or just their own personal best to strive against, the business of winning and losing is not an easy one for many children. And hopefully, that’s part of the reason why you’ve encouraged them to be there.

We need to feel disappointment

Any muscle that’s to grow stronger needs to have a little weight on it, and coping with the disappointment of losing is no different. It’s tempting with kids who really struggle with this to avoid sports, or competition of any kind (even family board games) if they reliably cause a meltdown when someone doesn’t win. While it might be embarrassing or upsetting to watch them behave poorly when they lose, they absolutely need those experiences so that they can learn that the feelings aren’t quite as intolerable as they think.

What to do

Draw your child off to one side, or away from the crowd, if you feel they’re making a spectacle, because of course that won’t help. But do try not to worry about how your child’s behaviour looks to others or what they might think. Stand with them, support them, put an arm around and empathise with the way they feel.

Don’t let them lash out or be disrespectful to anyone, but do let them feel the disappointment and everything it carries wash over them. When the moment is right offer words of wisdom, like, “There’s a winner and a loser in every game, no one can be the winner every time”, “Losing helps to show us where we can improve for next time,” or, “This is hard, but what you’re feeling right now will pass”. Keep the understanding high, and the condemnation low. Let them feel your belief in their ability to cope with the disappointment. They can borrow yours until they feel their own!

Book a session with a Family Coach

family-coachSometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.