Learning How To Lose

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I hate to lose.

But I don’t usually cry when I lose.

(Well, rarely anyway.)

How do I teach my boy to hate losing but to still be able to handle a loss?  

Luke is old enough to enjoy foosball now (5), and we have been playing 1 on 1 against each other recently.  This is such joy to a dad’s heart!  He has specifically told me to ‘play my hardest,’ and so I do.  Well, not my hardest, but hard enough to trounce him.  Every time.  This has brought me into my next on-the-job lesson in parenting:  How do I teach my boy to hate losing but still to lose with dignity?  This is how the scene unfolded after a 10-5 and 10-7 doubleheader:

Luke put his head down and started crying.  I picked him up and we went to the couch.

I asked him why he was crying.

“You always win!” 

“Well, I’ve been practicing for 20 years, so I have had a lot of time to get better.  You will be able to beat me some day if you keep practicing.”

(This didn’t really seem to encourage him, so I tried a different tactic.  I decided to get at the root cause of his crying – is he embarrassed, does he feel like a failure, does he feel inadequate…what is going on inside his head?  I am not a psychologist, but I’ve read a lot of books, so I know what to do.)

“Buddy, how does it make you feel when you lose?”



(He is like his dad, a man of few emotion-words.  Maybe that tactic is not going to help after all.)

“Yes, that makes sense that it makes you sad.  I hate losing too.  But even when you lose, you can still win.  Do you know how?”

<Head shake, no.>

“When you play sports, there are actually 4 challenges in each game.  Of course you are trying to score the most points and win the game – that’s important.  But you are also trying to get better at the sport, and the best way to get better is to play against people that are really good.  The third challenge is to act in a way that honors God and glorifies Him.  And the fourth challenge is to have fun.  So, if you can get better at a sport, glorify God, and have fun then you can win even if you lose.”

By this time he was hungry so he stopped crying and asked for a snack – the usual end to most conversations.  But hopefully it was a first step towards becoming a person who can lose with excellence by focusing on all 4 challenges.  And we’ll see if I can do the same in 10 years when he beats me!

Question:  We’re all in this together, so please help us out.  How do you teach your kids to win graciously and lose with honor?  How do you teach them to always keep improving, glorify God with their actions, and have fun (without losing the drive to win)?  Do you let your kids win?  

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