Is Your Kid a Sore Loser?

Filed under: Development: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Development: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Big Kids

child sulking and poutingRecently, a mom at her wit's end wrote a letter to Dear Abby: What should I do, the mother worried, with a sore loser?

It seems that her 10-year-old son, "Harry," ends up in tears if he doesn't always win -- and has no problem with cheating, if it'll help. "We have told Harry repeatedly that games are supposed to be fun," writes the mom, "but he seems unable to grasp the concept."

As a general rule, of course, no kid likes to lose. A certain amount of sulking and crying is perfectly normal, say the experts. Especially for little ones, who lack the vocabulary to express their emotions with words.

But by age 10? Come on, Harry. Keep it together. Unless, perhaps, mom is leaving out a key part of the story. Maybe, just maybe, mom and dad have problem with losing, too.

Parents who never admit to their own mistakes run the risk of having kids who feel pressure to achieve unrealistic expectations, says family psychologist Lawrence Kutner, P.h.D. Unwittingly, the message at home might be: "Our family must always succeed."

Kids are perceptive. If your little one sees you bitch and moan when you can't find a parking space, he may view this as a coping mechanism, and likewise blow minor events (like losing a game) out of proportion. Older kids, in particular, who are sore losers often worry what others think of them if they don't win, says Kutner. It's a self-esteem issue.

Also, Abby suggests Harry's parents should point-blank explain to him that not winning doesn't equal "loser." What does? Acting out. Cheating. A true success knows how to lose with grace. It's a skill that any parent can nurture, says Kutner. Just don't do this:

Let your kid to win all the time. Allowing him to lose on occasion will teach him how to set realistic expectations and master gracious defeat in the outside world.

Celebrate his wins big-time. A well-intentioned celebration sends an otherwise negative message. That is, you value winning over effort. Fete his energy and improvement, too.

Let him give up. Nudge him to keep going even if he fails once, twice or more. Why? You want to teach him perseverance and that the journey is more important than the destination.

Tell us -- how do you handle a sore loser?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.