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I think you will have to teach him about gravity too--look at those tears. Seriously, it's mostly talking and allowing him to grow. Don't let him win when you play with him, but only play games where he has a chance of winning. Don't beat him at chess repeatedly, for example, but play a game of chance where he will win sometimes. Explain over and over that no one wins all the time, that nobody likes a poor loser, and that being able to lose graciously is a real sign of growing up. Equally, he has to learn to be a gracious winner. I think repeated messages and practice in situations where he might win, or might lose (without gloating by the winner, or much praise to the winner, because something taught him winning is better, naturally), and avoiding win-lose situations when he is tired will help. But time, and other children, will do the most. He's certainly not the only one to find losing hard to learn.

Children learn life lessons through play. If they always win when they play, they aren't learning how to lose. So he needs to learn this when he is playing games - be it soccer, basketball or monopoly. Let him lose... Let him learn. It's far nicer to learn through play, than to go through life "winning" all the time, only to discover that the real world sucks because you didn't get that job/ into that university etc. He also needs to learn that winning comes at a price. That price is desire, hard work and sacrifice. He clearly has the urge to win - good for him. But make him work for it. Teach him that hard work and sacrifice = success, not tantrums and sulking. The reward for him will also taste that much sweeter if he has really earned it. X

This is also an opportunity for him to learn empathy for the person who loses when he wins. Empathy is an important part of development. I have b/g twins and the girl is just brutal to her brother; and on the playground, she establishes dominance early by hitting the first child she encounters. Someone recommended we read this article: http://childparenting.about.com/od/socialdevelopment/a/teach_empathy_and_emotional_intelligence.htm

Apparently learning empathy also helps the kids to learn about self control. We're working on it. It's not easy but I can see her occasionally hugging her brother now where in the past she'd only get that close to grab his collar and take him down like a pro wrestler.

Good luck. I've loved reading about your kids and your lives on the other side of the world for many, many years now.

I think this is one of those things that you have to wait until the child reaches a certain age before they achieve the level of empathy that will make them a good loser. I'm not saying that you shouldn't try... just that you shouldn't get stressed if your child seems to struggle with it for a year or two.

We have a rule of always shaking each other by the hand and saying: "Good game!" after everything we play, regardless of who plays or loses. We sometimes do congratulations to the winner, but that's not hard and fast. The "Good game!" handshake is a must.

Most of what we play is stuff like Snakes and Ladders where you don't have a lot of control over who wins. I do fudge things occasionally to increase my son's chance of winning, but I won't give him the win. He can get cross if he loses, and I try to keep it from escalating.... pretty much comparable to your basketball story.

With my knucklehead I was advised to play board and card games.
There is a very specific set of rules that everyone has to adhere to so everyone is on an equal footing, and at the first sign of a tantrum or losing badly the game is packed away and no-one gets to play any more. No drama, no repercussions, no ceremony.
And it doesn't have to be Monopoly, you can play snap for 20 minutes a day and learn the same lesson. Card games like "Go Fish" and board games like "Ludo" allow for a little bit of strategy too.

I think that there is a lot of good advice here but I think an obvious point has been missed- you want to put the emphasis on the fun of playing rather than the outcome, especially at this age. The important thing is to enjoy playing. At the end of a game, don't congratulate the winner and comfort the loser, but immediately ask, 'Did you have fun? Great! So did I. Do you want to play again?' I think it is a lesson that has a few variations, eg birthday parties are about having fun with friends, not about the presents. It is important to play games a bit everyday and show them how you can laugh just as hard when you lose as you do when you win. Its the attitude that you enjoy the time with them most of all and the result is totally unimportant.

Some good tips amongst the comments here (I shall be taking note of them).

My boy is not the most gracious in defeat, but I still stick to not letting him win, and I am not rising to the negative behaviour. Not giving him any attention for it, and ignoring his wailing completely. Then the next time he wants to play a game, I remind him that it's okay to lose, some one has to, and that you should be happy for whoever does win. That I'm not playing if he's not prepared to accept that at the beginning. It doesn't wash every time but I think it is working.

I found sports, and in particular, cricket and hockey taught me to be better in defeat. They are much more civilised sports (in general) where - while competitive - there is generally an ethos of embracing the opposition and supporting one another after a poor performance. I played in a hockey game recently where one of our younger players was going to refuse to shake hands at the end of the game (one of the opposition had kicked a ball in for a goal, which isn't allowed, but had claimed the goal, bit like claiming a catch when the ball has bounced in cricket). However at the final whistle I asked this youngster what it would make him if he didn't shake hands with the opposition. He'd be a saw loser. Thus he shook hands, and learnt from it, as in it wasn't behaviour he wanted to emulate.

Think what I'm trying to say is that it is a continual lesson from birth.

When my son was little my husband mostly didn't allow him to win for 2 reasons: because he said the day would come when my son would be WAY better at almost everything and then he'll appreciate being a winner and because it made him try harder. Luckily, it hasn't backfired and at nearly 18 my boy is reasonably competitive, a great sportsman, a gracious loser and a very smug winner. He also beats his Dad and MOST things.... Karma ;)

I love Sarah's comment right up front. She said everything I would've said. Being that I am the super experienced parent, and all...


I agree that it's not a good idea to insulate kids from losing by "throwing" the game. If you do that, you convey the message that the game, or their feelings about the game, are so important they justify a sort of extreme action. Conversely, if you play fairly, you convey the message that the child is mature enough to handle whatever outcome arises. I never intentionally lose, although I also don't usually try very hard to win :)

I have a five-year-old who went through a short period of being a sore loser, and who sometimes now will cheat to win. I like games like Candyland and Go Fish for him and his younger sister because they are so obviously based on luck, so it's a little easier for the kids to make the connection that losing/winning doesn't necessarily say anything important about your character or skills, and that it's not much fun to play if you know you're going to win every time anyway. Then it's easier to extend these lessons to more skill-based games and understand that no one wins all the time, luck and circumstances always play a role, there's always another game, etc. It also gives me plenty of opportunity to model losing gracefully--"Oh well, looks like I'm not doing very well this time!" Finally we've been playing a wide variety of games recently and that also helps, in that again there are a lot of opportunities to win or lose at different things.

But I also think losing is partly an aspect of a kid's character to some extent and parents' influence may not be able to fully address the issue. One of my younger brothers growing up was a very poor loser and it just took him a long time to grow out of it. He said he didn't think anything changed, he just finally matured enough to deal with losing. But as an adult he plays and enjoys games more than us his siblings, and I think that competitive streak serves him well in other regards.

I like asking my kids questions. How do you feel when you win? How do you feel when you lose? When you have a fit after losing do you think that is wise or foolish? Have you heard of the term "sore loser"? Is that the kind of person anyone would want to be? What do you think you could do to show kindness to the winner? Do you think it would be nice of you to say "good game!" to the winner? If you win, should you boast?

Most of the time I can lead my kids around to seeing and ADMITTING their behavior needs improvement by gently nudging them along with questions. It helps to have this conversation during a calm happy moment instead of the heat of the moment.

I love that sketch! :D

Yes, I think you are right! He should not always win, and it is a good lesson in life!

My son is very much involved in sports. This has taught him very well that he doesn't always win. After all of his games (whether it be hockey, soccer, baseball, football, whatever) the teams meet in the center, bump fists and say 'good game.' We also play a lot of board games and now that he is older I play to win (he has started beating me at chess...little brat!). When he was younger I used to let him win sometimes but not anymore.

Is Adam playing a sport? I know you have said how he loves sports. He is definitely old enough now that he needs to learn to lose and win.

Mine have always had an older sibling,that is stronger and better than them so they have learnt from early on that they can't always win and losing is part of the game too.
When we watch sport we often chat about how some teams are better because they practice harder and they are stronger and they win.
But it is part of growing up in a very competitive world and the sooner they learn that losing is part of life the better for them.But also you don't want to break his competitive drive and spirit.Nothing wrong with trying to win,as long as he does it in a good sportsman way.

I'd tell him that no one likes to lose. And, that people will not want to play with him if he's going to act that way when he loses. I don't sugar coat anything. If he can't be nice, then the next time he wants to play a game, remind him that he wasn't nice and don't play with him.

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