Wednesday, 19 June 2013

It's not about winning but taking part....

In response to a request, today's post is about dealing with sore losers.

The little one in the request has just turned 4. At this age children do not understand the emotions that they are feeling and are unable to express them; therefore, tantrums are common place. Tantrums are not easy to deal with and become especially embarrassing when they occur in public.

Imagine, you settle down with the family to play a great game but halfway through your little one does not agree with a rule or comes last when the game is complete - the board is thrown in the air, siblings may be hit, the tears and shouting start.... Help! How do you stop this behaviour from happening and ruining those few precious moments you have to sit down and play with your children?

The first thing to point out is that this is perfectly natural behaviour for a preschooler or even older children. With time the majority of children grow out of tantrums, as they are able to communicate effectively.

Here are some top tips:
  • Before
  • Chat to your child before you start and explain that sometimes they may win and sometimes they may lose; mention too that we should be happy for the winner. Focus on the losing side so that your child has this fresh in their mind before you start playing.

  • During!
  • Throughout the game, try to praise any good moves etc. that your child may make. Hopefully, they may feel proud at all they have achieved in the game and not be so concerned about winning, as they have already been lavished with praise. Also, as above, as you are not focusing on praising winners, the good feedback they receive throughout the game will make them assess their game plan.

  • After
  • Liz from Answers at, responds to a mum asking for advice about her 7 year old girl. Liz states that we should let them win and lose but if we win we say "oh well! at least that was fun". When your child is the loser, Liz suggests that we ask them if they have had fun and try to explain that this is the point of playing games and it is not about who comes first or last.

  • Encourage good losing behaviour
  • Reward / star charts, treats and praise should be lavished on your child when they keep calm or react mildly after coming last or not liking a rule. Hopefully, after a few times they will learn that tantrums do not get them rewards. When you lose say, "Oh bother! I wanted to win that game! I will try better next time!"

  • Winning behaviour
  • Try not to praise the winner or show added attention to them for coming first. Also, as an adult you lead by example, parents should make sure that they do not gloat about winning. Show your child how to win or lose and manage frustrations. Perhaps you could say things like, "Well done everyone; good game".

  • Win and lose
  • Don't let your child win all of the time as they need to learn that we win and lose. Over time, experience of both sides will gain a balanced attitude to all occasions where things do not go according to plan and at other times they go better.

  • Worst case scenario
  • If your child does not calm down with all the calm and gentle aids above, it may be worth trying to restrict competitive games for a while, until your child is better able to deal with the outcomes. Simply say to them, "I guess you are not old enough to play this game", and store it until you think that they may be.

To teach your child about the game of chance, you may wish to play games like Hungry Hippo, Snakes and Ladders etc. Games where they have to interact as well as play will put their focus on taking part; and ones that take a long time may help as your child will become bored before it is finished but will have enjoyed the 'taking part' aspect.

Throughout, try to keep calm and keep your voice gentle and steady - even when they are throwing a spectacular tantrum! Try not to give attention to any tantrums, but do ensure that they are safe (and others should they lash out). If they move to another room to sulk, let them calm down and return when they are ready.

If the tips do not work, bear in mind that hopefully your child will 'grow out' of this behaviour and you can create happy family memories in the not too distant future.


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