“Napipikon ‘pag natatalo!” Would this phrase describe your child? Losing can be tough to handle for kids and difficult to tolerate for whoever your preschooler is playing with, whether it’s mom and dad or other kids.
“Being a sore loser isn’t likely to do your child any favors. After all, no one wants to play with the kid who cheats because he’s losing or the one makes excuses about why he didn’t win,” says Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and bestselling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, in an article for VeryWell.
If your child sulks when he loses, quits in the middle of a game if he’s behind, or yells at you for winning, don’t fret yet. There are ways to help your sore loser lose (and win) gracefully.
1. Don’t just let your child win It’s common for adults to purposely lose a game played with a child. Sometimes, it’s to see that happy look of triumph and other times it’s to avoid having to deal with an angry preschooler. You’re not helping your sore loser, though. By doing so, you’re only reinforcing the notion that he always needs to win, said Morin.
2. Listen to his feelings Your child has thrown the board game pieces on the floor because he lost — yikes. Keep your cool! Avoid phrases like, “Laro lang naman. ‘Wag ka magalit.”
Negative emotions like sadness, anger, and disappointment at losing are tough to deal with, especially for kids. Help your child understand that both winning and losing are part of games and competition. Validate your child’s feelings by saying, “Losing can feel bad. It’s okay to feel sad, but you can’t throw the game pieces.”
“Allowing your child to feel disappointment every now and then will prepare her for the bigger disappointments that will come later in life,” said child psychologist and children's book author Joy Berry to The Bump.
3. Give praise for effort, not scores (even when your child wins) Your competitive child is sad he lost because he put a lot of effort into the game, so focus on that. “Rather than discussing the number of points scored, talk about how your child tried his or her best,” said child psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Austerman to Cleveland Clinic.
Point out how you admire your child for her game strategy, how well she could focus and concentrate even under pressure, or how much she’s improved and ask if she’s been practicing. Combat her disappointment with praise.
Do this for when your child wins as well. “Even if your child wins a game, it’s a good idea to repeat the message that the most important thing is that he or she had fun and worked hard,” said Dr. Austerman.
4. Point out how your child treats other players Part of good sportsmanship is treating other players with respect whether you win or lose. When you see your child being patient and gracious with other players, praise her for it, says writer for Scary Mommy and author Sarah Cottrell.
5. Be a good sport, too, mom and dad Your child looks to you as a role model and takes cues on how to behave from you, says Dr. Austerman. When you’re watching a sports game on TV, avoid yelling or saying mean things when the team you like loses. Give praise to how well both teams (not just the one you support) are playing too. Keep your happiness at a victory at a respectful level (don’t rub it in other people’s faces!).
When you play games at home, show him what it’s like to be a good sport. Say, “You did well!” to other players when you win and congratulate the winner when you lose. Smile, tell jokes and show her how much fun playing with family and friends is whatever the outcome may be.