No one likes losing, but some children react more poorly than others. What can you do to help your child?
No one likes losing, but some children react more poorly than others. They may walk off the basketball court without shaking their opponents' hands or yell at teammates who made mistakes. If they compete in individual sports, they’ll claim that the outcome wasn’t their fault. Instead they’ll blame outlying factors: Who could expect an athlete to run quickly when it's so windy outside—or his shoelaces aren't double-knotted properly?
Taming the tantrums isn’t easy, but it's essential. Having one sore loser on a team can ruin the experience for everyone, says Steve Ettinger a long-time Manhattan soccer coach. Sore losers have a harder time making and maintaining friendships than their more poised peers.
Identifying why children are upset can help parents respond appropriately. Children may worry about what others think of their loss, or associate winning with their worthiness. Many times, they simply need to be taught new ways of thinking about their performance with a reminder that all athletes lose.
What to Do?
Children who are in the midst of a meltdown should be taken aside by a parent. Perhaps, she can walk around a neighboring soccer field while discussing the reasons she’s upset until she's calm enough to return. Was it a missed call by a referee that has her outraged, or her inability to score in the final minutes when her team needed her?
Listen to your child and alleviate her fears in whatever way makes sense for your situation. The referee may have had a different vantage point than your daughter. Missed last-minute goals can easily be explained by the surge in adrenaline caused by high-pressure situations.
And remember, Ettinger says, even in a highly competitive environment, valuable lessons can be learned from losing. If you don't make mistakes, how will you know what to do better?