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help your child handle losing

How to Help Your Competitive Child Handle Losing

How many of you have a competitive child? I’ve got one and it comes with painful shrieks when a game or competition just doesn’t go his way. It’s painful … at least for me it is.

help child be good sport

All kids are special and even more so, because of their individual little quirks. Some parents feel lucky when their children pass a growth level without having to deal with common traits that are most prevalent at those particular stages.

For my kid, competitiveness seemed to start at the age of 4, but I have yet to see much of an improvement. I wouldn’t want to squelch his strong spirit but at the same time, I don’t want a sore little loser either.

As any parent would, you want to cultivate a strong spirit but a kind/empathetic one as well. Teaching them at a young age that it’s ok to lose is not only great for their self-esteem, but it generates an even temperament for them as well.

competitive child

Practice Losing

I know, this sounds a little odd but the more they understand that losing is ok, the more they can handle it. Of course, you don’t want to make your child complacent but you don’t want them to be out of control either.

If they have other siblings, have them play games with them and remind them it’s ok to let their siblings win. We all know that younger siblings usually can’t hold up to older siblings so if this is an option, have them practice losing as something that’s good and helping others to feel good about themselves. This will help them have a more positive feeling connected to losing in general.

Talk to Them

For the most part, kids don’t always understand how their actions may be affecting others around them. If you know of an incident or catch them in the act of being overly competitive to where it’s not healthy, talk to them about it. Help them see how that might make others feel.

Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. Being honest with them and helping them see their faults through someone else’s eyes is a great way to help them understand what they’ve done wrong.


Listen

A strong competitive nature can stem from something that happened in the early part of your child’s life. With any psychological connection, they themselves may never know why they push to be so competitive and you as a parent, educator, etc. may never know why either.

Having to find out exactly where their competitive nature stemmed from is not always necessary, but it’s a great way for them to know they can vent and talk to you if they need to. Sometimes reacting in a negative manner, which in this case could be the reason behind the competitive behavior, is a way for kids to release feelings they have.

So do your best not to push them aside when they’re trying to talk to you about something. Give them opportunities to talk while you just listen and give them an environment where they feel comfortable talking about their feelings.

Focus on the Fun

It can be easy for a parent to push their child to be the best. However, when it comes to the games or reason behind the competitive activities, make sure the focus is on the fun component. Be sure that you get involved in NOT making sure all the focus is on the winner. Praise all the kids for their efforts. Make it about the team as a whole so that kids don’t feel like they have to win to get praised or receive attention.

It’s important to remember that each child is different. Not all of them respond to the same techniques so it may take trying new things before they understand what it means to be a good sport.

Karlyn Bishop

Karlyn Bishop

Karlyn Bishop is the proud mommy to little Oliver and wife to hubby. She is a resident of Laguna Beach and a big player in the web's large social media circle.

14 comments

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  • I’m stepmum to a very competitive teenager and it’s rough being in the same home with him when a football game hasn’t ended in his team’s favor. He’s team captain and takes his responsibility very seriously. I think he’s a bit too old for these tips, but I feel for any parents who are dealing with a competitive child. It’s not easy.

  • My daughter has always been competitive. She gets this from her father. I actually handled it how you suggest and she has turned out to be a magnificent person.

  • This one’s a tough challenge for a lot of parents because you want them to feel that you have their support no matter what and that it’s okay to lose from time to time but you also want to make sure that they won’t lose their confidence in the sport or the activity. I think these are amazing tips to be honest! They’re going to help a lot!

  • These are fabulous tips! The first time we tried playing a board game at my house, it ended in the two kids that didn’t win crying. Initially, I was shocked that they would react that way, but I realized that when kids are very little they don’t have the self control to handle losing well without practice. I reminded them that when they won they would have the chance to feel good, but shouldn’t rub their sibling’s nose in it. And when they lost, they should congratulate the winner. With practice, games are getting to actually be fun– even when they lose!

  • Yes, I agree…being honest with kids is so important. When they know what to expect, it might soften the blow a little easier. My youngest has always been the kid who is good at everything…but when he didn’t get a part in a play recently, it was rough! But, we tried our best to use it as a learning tool and support those who did get into the cast.

  • I played soccer when I was little and through high school and I was very competitive. Whenever we lost a game, I would take it really hard. My parents helped me by having me understand that what I was doing I was doing because it was fun. When I got angry over a game, I was taking the fun out of it. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • Out of 4 kids, 2 of mine are quite competitive. My daughter is the oldest and she struggles with not winning or being the best. One of my sons is also competitive. He is so focused on winning that he sometimes forgets to have fun!

  • I’m such a competitive person that I think it is sometimes harder for me to accept than my kids. They mostly don’t care too much and just like to have fun. I need to take some of the advice myself and relax a bit. 

  • I so needed to read this! My youngest daughter is extremely competitive and cannot handle losing at all. I think this competitiveness stems from the fact that she has twin siblings who are 18 months older and seem to do everything better than she does. She expects to be as good as them at lots of things and doesn’t realize that developmentally she is not there yet.

  • I think the “practice losing” suggestion is totally on point. Engaging with your kids on games and sports on a regular basis is important, and having them lose once in awhile will have them get used to expressing their reactions and just becoming good sports overall. Love it!

  • I always tell my son to focus on the fun. It is not easy to lose, however since he was little I have show him that he cannot always win. I never just let him win because he was little, I was trying to teach him since little that things can go both ways.

  • This was my daughter. When she was in middle and high school she played volleyball and was extremely competitive. Before tournaments she’s worry herself sick sometimes. It was tough to see. In the 10th grade, she was asked to be a team captain. After that I noticed a shift. Instead of focusing on her performance in relation to everyone else, now her filter was what’s best for the team. It was cool to see. x

  • Oh my gosh, my son is SO competitive! He’s an only child and never really had to experience “losing” to a sibling. I let him win way too many games as a preschooler! Now he’s 12 and he’s just driven to win to the point that if he does bad in a subject, he mentally beats himself up. Thank you for these tips!

  • I have at least three friends with kids that wold benefit greatly from this advice. I’m sharing this with them.