My 6yo daughter isn’t the most graceful loser in the world. She gets mad, throws things or sulks in a corner whenever she loses in a game or when she’s having a hard time doing something. She’s the type of child who always wants to be the first in everything. Getting the first slice of cake, to get on the swing and yes, to win all the games that she and her brother play at home. When life isn’t in her favor? She gets mad.
While my husband and I try our best to remind her each time that it’s okay to lose and that getting mad isn’t going to make things easier or make her a winner, it doesn’t always work. I gotta tell yah, it can be pretty hard to keep your cool when your kid has gone loca! But we try to remain level-headed as much as we can. We are the adults, after all.
Earlier, she was playing with Pokemon cards with her brother and my golly she was eating dust. Half expecting her to get mad again, I was mentally preparing my speech about sportsmanship when I heard her say, “Wow, you are really good at this. Really good!”
Wait, what? Was that my daughter talking!?
I have gotten so used to her throwing a tantrum each time she loses in a game (which is kinda sad really because it means it has become her habit for a while now), so expected that sometimes, just for the sake of a moment of peace, I would be tempted to tell her brother to let her win in their games but I stop myself. I do not want my kid growing up with a skewed sense of entitlement. Instead, we challenge her to be better at it.
“Sibling rivalries are crucial to a child’s development — these interactions are microcosms of how he’ll respond to similar competition in the outside world,” says the author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, Hilary Levey Friedman, Ph.D.
If we move heaven and earth for the sake of making it easier for the kids (and for us), we lose the opportunity to teach them the value of hard work and they may grow up expecting us (and the world) to help them every time they run into problems.
I felt pride as I watched her smiling as she handed the cards to her brother. They did another round and she lost again but the same thing happened. She smiled and praised her older brother despite the fact the she just lost all her cards in the game.
And my heart swelled. They do listen, folks. They really do.
In front of me was the fruit of hours upon hours of patience, explanations and loving parenting.
Gentle words and loving reminders do work. It may take time before kids learn the values that we are teaching them but we will get there.
This is why no matter how tempting it can be to just give in and yell and to tell them to just shut up, we should always take the high road.
Take the time to talk to them about what happened and discuss possible outcomes if they do this versus that.
However, it can’t be all talk. Kids learn more through experience, by seeing it, by having a good role model.
So what can we do about it?
Be graceful in accepting our own defeats. Try not to kick the table whenever the coffee machine doesn’t work and don’t slam the computer mouse when the computer is acting up. Always remember that kids are like sponges and they absorb every thing that they see, even the littlest things (except for when you ask them to find their shoes!).
Also, try to avoid making winning the ultimate goal in everything. When kids focus too much on the prize and not the entire experience, they lose sight of all the fun to be had.
Most importantly, acknowledge their feelings when they lose. Frustration and disappointment are real feelings that we shouldn’t brush off. Take the time to listen to them vent, then discuss what can be done next time to do it better.
There may be hiccups along the way but trod along mama, we will get there. We are raising the future rulers and citizens of this world, we need to do it.
Parenting isn’t an easy job and in my opinion, it is one of the hardest jobs in the world because there is literally no break. Why, I even broadcast life lessons from the bathroom because dang kids won’t give me 5 minutes alone for a peaceful shower without them fight over something.
Though it is possible that she would resort to crying and tantrums again tomorrow or the next day but I will be here to teach, to remind and to guide. I may be biting my tongue or clenching my jaws while doing it but I will do it. Firmly but in the most loving way. Until she’s old enough to learn how to express her disappointment and frustration in a more graceful manner.
Until that happens, I’m just gonna drink lots of coffee. And beer.