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How learn how to lose gracefully?

I'll be the first to admit, I like to win.  But, many-a-time, I'm a loser.  While many activities for our children are much less competitive than activities from our generation (very generally speaking),  we still value lessons learned from winning and losing.  Consider this:

I'm looking for some advice from other parents or relevant books I can read to help deal with some win/lose competition issues my sensitive 4-year-old son is having.  I know he's at an age that starts getting into kids' games where winning and losing is part of the game, so hopefully this is just a stage he's going through.  He takes games very seriously, gets very excited when things do go his way and work out the way he wants, and if they don't, he bursts into tears and is inconsolable for a while.  This is happening in the kids soccer class my son is taking now, which he loves, looks forward to each week, but typically he comes crying to me on the sidelines at least once every session.  Maybe they'll be playing a game of freeze tag and he's not able to tag someone when he's one of the "taggers", and he'll come crying to me all upset that he wasn't successful. Conversely, in a previous class he was able to tag a kid and freeze him and he talked about it excitedly for the rest of the day.  Another game they play is where the kids all try to catch the coach, who's kicking a soccer ball around and trying to escape the kids.  If my son isn't the one kid who catches the coach, he comes crying to me.  The coaches are great and downplay the concept of "winning" and "losing" and emphasize that they're all a team, and if one kid
succeeds they all do, they're all trying their best, etc.  So I don't fault the class or the coaches at
all, in fact they're great and always try to help my son get over his sadness quickly and move on. He really enjoys the majority of the class and says he doesn't want to stop going, and I don't think pulling him out of the class is going to help him.  I'd just like to help him develop some solutions to dealing with his feelings and emotions.

I've tried helping him come up with some verbal strategies he can tell himself when these situations happen to feel better, but he's pretty resistent.  He just says nothing will help him feel better.  I've offered up several phrases for him to think about, like "there's more fun to come", "maybe it will work out better next time", "I tried my best", etc. But so far no luck.  At least I've gotten over feeling embarrassed that he's pretty much the only kid who cries in the class now and when he comes running to me with a crumpled face, I'm prepared to cuddle and sooth until he's ready to rejoin the group.  Right now that's what he needs me for and that's how I can help him. But obviously it's not ideal.

He is also very into being "first" at doing something, having something bigger or more than others (usually his 2-year-old brother, who doesn't care now but will soon).  I've read that this is common for 4-year-olds, but I want some strategies of my own to respond to this constant competition-obsessed behavior.

Anyone have older kids who were this way and have suggestions for dealing with it?  Or any
recommmendations of child development books or children's books on these topics?  Advice is always appreciated!


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Your son and my oldest (now six) sound very much alike. We try not to be very competitive with her but she still is very competitive. I must admit we have used it to our advantage - she wants to win everything. Even things like "Who can eat more greens?"

One of her favorite books is "Winners Never Quit" by Mia Hamm. Your son will love the soccer theme and the message is that playing the game is more important than winning.

With our daughter we have played a lot of board games at home. She has lost and thrown huge fits. We continue to play and let her win and lose. It seems to have helped her come to grips with losing. She is also learning that there will be a next time and next time she might win - if she continues to play and not throw a fit. Since it is private and at home we are more relaxed and let it play out.

She also does not do competitive sports and a lot of it is by her own choosing. She loves Do Jump and I think they have a very good atmosphere to encourage being supportive of each other. She also loves swimming which at this age is not competitive.

The upside to all of this is how well she does at school. She is very driven and is a leader in the class. She has also done things like taught herself to read (in her mind she had to be first). The downside is that she is heartbroken that she was not the first to lose a tooth. There are certainly upsides and downsides to this personality.

I strongly recommend reading Unconditional Parenting.

We have seen similiar tendencies in our 4-yr old when a game doesn't go his way. So I would love to hear suggestions from other parents too. We haven't enrolled in soccer or other group sports classes yet, but he sometimes gets really mad if he doesn't win a board game or if he gets behind.

We say to him that maybe we should put the game away and play something else if we can't have fun playing it. We talk about how no one can win all the time, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, you do your best, and the purpose is to enjoy playing either way, etc. It seems to work, he always wants to keep playing and now is usually a really good sport if he doesn't win. Now he usually gets excited for us for doing well, rather than focusing on being mad that he didn't win.

Is it possible for you to leave the area when your son is participating in class? I have noticed that my daughter (3 1/2) is much better at controlling herself when I'm not around. I can watch from a distance if she doesn't see me. She has a different take on her emotions when she doesn't have mommy to run to. Just an idea. Maybe then the coaches can give him their insight to winning and losing. A new perspective from a new source may be all it takes. Worth a shot? Good luck...mol

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