Tips for Parents: Child on a Losing Team

Tips for Parents: Supporting Your Child When They’re On the Losing Team

Playing games is a common occurrence in childhood. When playing a game – from tic-tac-toe, to a board game, to sports – there almost always is a winner and a loser. While losing can be especially difficult for some, there are several ways parents can offer support as children process their feelings. Institute of Child Development (ICD) doctoral students offer their recommendations for how you can help your child cope with being on the losing team.

Carrie Depasquale

“Essentially, when your child does poorly in an activity or loses a game (assuming chance was not involved), the loss should be framed in terms of whether or not they tried their best, what they learned during the experience, and how they can do better next time rather than attributing the loss to their skills. Frame losses as opportunities to learn, grow, and improve, rather than as evidence of intrinsic knowledge or ability.”

Carrie Depasquale

Melissa Engel

“Encourage your children to explore many activities. Allow them to guide this process, trying out anything (within reason!) that sparks their interests rather than what you see as the best fit. Inevitably, children will identify their strengths and weaknesses. Engage in frequent dialogue to help your children process their experiences: How did getting a lead in the school play make you feel? What about losing the soccer game? You can generate similar conversations with professional sports teams, music competitions, or other endeavors to help your children realize the universal mountains and valleys of life.”

Melissa Engel

Christina Mondi

“Help your child develop a ‘growth’ mindset. Praise effort rather than outcomes (‘You really gave it your all!’) and highlight evidence and opportunities for growth. For example, you could say, ‘Your defense has come so far since the start of the season!’ or ‘That was a tough game – I bet this experience will make you an even stronger player next time.’ Another great way to model and connect with your child is telling stories about times from your own childhood that you were on the losing team, emphasizing how you coped with the disappointment and what you learned.”

Christina Mondi

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