Advanced Pediatric Therapies


Do You Have a Child That Hates to Lose?

on December 10, 2014
Does this look familiar?

Does this look familiar?

We play a lot of games here at APT, and there are frequently some pretty sad or frustrated faces when a game is lost.  We play games for a variety of reasons including building social awareness, improving self regulation (skills such as handling frustration, managing expectations) auditory or visual skill building, fine motor skill enhancement and so on.  Kids who hate to lose are often called “sore losers,” but it can be taken to the extreme.  Kids will throw tantrums, name-call (to themselves or others), cry, hit or even stop talking.

We suggest first trying to avoid the problem by teaching them how to be good sports.  Parents magazine suggested a couple of the following and also some tried and true methods from the therapists here are included:

  • Play by the rules.  You are your child’s best teacher and you shouldn’t let them win on purpose.  If the game is too hard for them, scale down.  Shake hands whoever the victor is at the end of the game.
  • Encourage self competition.  This means letting your child set their own goals.  If they were able to ride their bike up 1/4 of the hill, maybe their goal can be half the hill next time.  They don’t have to play games all the time to learn some aspects of healthy competition.
  • Encourage “improving” over “winning.”  The game that keeps score may be more difficult for a child to handle than activities that don’t.  Martial arts, dancing and fort building are not scored, but you can show improvement in each.
  • Poor sportsmanship is not okay.  Bragging when they have won or “freaking out” when they have lost:  neither is being a good sport.  Model for your children how to be a good sport.  At the beginning of a game, do a cheer for the opposite team.  Always make sure to say “good game.”  Don’t gloat when you win.  Point out what the other team did well, even if they lost.
  • Acknowledge the effort.  Let them know how hard you see that they tried.  Ask them if they’d like some help getting better at something.
  • Don’t set the bar too high.  If your child is 5, don’t pick out a board game for ages 7 and up. There is a reason for age parameters.  Try to stick to them.
  • Set a new strategy.  When they say “I’m never playing this dumb game again!, ”  you can try to help them become better at the game you were playing.  Ask them what they could have done differently.
  • “How would you feel?”  Ask them how they would feel if a friend quit in the middle of a game that your child was winning.  Ask them these questions when it is no longer game playing time, when the heat of the competition has worn off.
  • Set them up for success.  For our kids, things like lighting, noise and seating can make a huge difference in how well they are able to play.
  • Have a sense of humor!!  When kids get a “skip a turn” card or make a wrong move, they can pick a silly word to say that will express their frustration.  We use words like “Oh Fiddlesticks!” or “Oh Pickles!” Silliness takes the seriousness out of play.  You can also leave the game as it is and go out and throw a ball outside.  Come back later.

For some kids, the emotion of winning or losing may just be too much for now.  On those occasions, play a game where they are part of a team or choose an activity that is non-competitive like an art or science project.

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