How to Help Your Kids Cope With Winning and Losing in Sports

It’s no wonder that team sports are still a popular choice for children’s extra-curricular activities – they are fun, they keep kids physically active and they help to develop team-playing skills that are vital in the world of adulting and working.

However, with team sports comes the struggle of dealing with wins and losses. Sports are competitive and, while there’s nothing wrong with having a competitive spirit, it is important that children appropriately handle both losing and winning.

As a parent, you are in a vital position to help guide your little ones through the disappointment of loss and the elation of winning. Here are some tips for dealing with both these situations:

Winning

You wouldn’t think you’d have to teach your child how to handle winning but, if left unchecked, they may resort to bragging or putting down others. That’s not to say that your child is rude – they may simply be mimicking the behaviours of others, whether it’s other children, other adults or behaviours they have seen on TV.

It’s Okay To Be Happy

When it comes to winning, allow your child to be happy and proud and let them know that it is okay to feel good about winning. Encourage them to celebrate their win without bragging or putting down the other team.

Winning Can Help Teach Empathy

In order to curb a bragging/putting-down attitude, emphasize the concept of empathy by pointing out how the other person or team may feel about losing. Guide them to congratulate the other team and express their enjoyment of playing the game. Notice how at the end of a game, teams usually shake hands with each other? This is a great practice in empathy and appreciation.

One For All and All For One

Also make sure that your children praises their teammates. The goal of team sports is to foster a sense of team-playing and, even if your child is the star player, it is important for them to recognize that he or she and their teammates won together.

Losing

Nobody likes to lose and guaranteed your child is going to have some strong feelings with this. In my work with Autistic preschoolers, we had programs specifically designed to help kids deal with losing. Some children have difficulty expressing the disappointment felt after a loss.

It’s Okay To Be Sad Too

First of all, allow your child to accept their feelings. Yes, they are going to be angry, sad and/or disappointed and it is okay to feel these things. What’s not okay is expressing them inappropriately. Praise your child for their efforts and help them to recognize that trying is often more important than winning.

Being a Good Sport

Have them congratulate the other team – this not only promotes the aforementioned empathy but also helps to reinforce the concept of being a good sport and recognizing the efforts of the winning team.

Save Emotional Expression for Home

If your child needs to vent their frustrations for having lost, have them wait until they are in the car or at home. Having them express their emotions in the vicinity of the other team may spoil their victory. Discuss how happy the winners are and compare this happiness to the way they feel when they win.

All For One and One For All…Again

Lastly, encourage your child not to play the blame-game. Perhaps a teammate’s performance hindered their victory but being part of a team means everyone taking responsibility for the end result. If they need to direct their anger, help them find a more appropriate outlet, such as discussing their feelings at home or writing in a journal.

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