How to Teach Your Child to Lose Gracefully

Learning to lose gracefully doesn’t come naturally. It has to be taught, and is learnt over the years. So, it is important that you start teaching your child early on how to lose with dignity.

By Arun Sharma

How to Teach Your Child to Lose Gracefully

It was the annual sports day and Adil was participating in the 100m race. He had practised hard and everyone, including Adil himself, was expecting that he would win the race. The race started and Adil shot ahead of the others, but a few metres before the finish line, his step faltered and the boy behind him overtook him to finish first. Filled with anger, Adil stomped his foot on the ground and walked back to where his classmates were. He did not even bother to congratulate the winner, who was his classmate.

You may have witnessed your child sulk like Adil after losing a game of chess to his friend, or stamp his foot in anger if he failed to answer a question correctly.

Agreed that a win is what everyone wants; but, losing once in a while is inevitable. And, what matters is how well we face loss – whether it is with resentment and bitterness or with dignity and grace. Learning to lose gracefully doesn’t come naturally. But, you can certainly teach your child how to face a loss with dignity and be a sport. Let’s look at some ways in which you can help your child learn this.

1. Teach your child to be both a respectful winner and loser. While everyone feels happy after a win, losing can make an individual feel miserable and disappointed. When your child wins a contest against another child, ask him to go and say a word of encouragement to his opponent. On the other hand, if your child has lost, ask him to go over and congratulate the winner.

2. Help your child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. A child with high self-esteem will react to adverse outcomes with dignity. To build your child’s self-esteem, remind her that your love and respect doesn’t depend on a win or a loss. At the same time, also reinforce to her that you appreciate a graceful loser as much as you appreciate a respectful winner.

3. Provide your child with opportunities to lose. Parents always want their child to win. But it will help your child become a resilient loser if you sometimes challenge him to engage in something in which he is bound to lose. And while he is losing, you can help him learn how to keep his emotions under control and lose gracefully.

4. Praise your child for being a graceful loser. Offer your child a lot of encouragement and praise if she has fought hard yet lost, but carried herself through the situation with dignity. Your support will also help her cope with the disappointment she would feel after the loss.

5. Analyse with your child the reasons behind the loss. Both a win and a loss provide important opportunities for analysis and learning. Sit with your child and analyse the reasons behind his loss. This will help him learn to look at a loss more objectively than give in to feelings of disappointment.

6. Emphasise on giving the best. Explain to your child that winning depends on giving her best and that is what she should keep in mind. Help her prepare better by encouraging her to put in a lot of hard work.

7. Don’t blame someone else for your child’s defeat. Blaming your child’s coach or his teacher or others for his defeat will lead to your child developing a sense of entitlement. He will start believing that he isn’t responsible for his loss.

8. Be a good role model. Set a good example while watching your child from the sidelines. Children are very much capable of understanding their parents' emotions and actions with respect to a win or a loss and will often mimic them. So, don’t go overboard with expressing your emotions.

Winning is always exciting, but losing gracefully is also an important life skill that your child should know. Help him learn this important skill. Not only will it keep his self-confidence intact but also make him understand that sometimes success comes only after trying again and again.