Gracious Losers

Gracious Losers

Winning Isn’t Everything

Being crowned Miss Universe would be a dream come true for girls around the world. Standing in the spotlight, hearing your name and receiving the crown is a moment unlike any other.

Having that crown taken away would be heartbreaking, humbling and humiliating. And that’s exactly what happened to Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, Sunday night in the Miss Universe pageant. As the shock factor wears off, there’s a teachable moment for our kids – how to be a gracious loser.

Most kids will have moments they need to be a gracious loser. Although they won’t be globally televised, they will be public moments – at a little league game, a swimming meet or a spelling bee. As parents, we can prepare them for these moments by focusing on a few simple, age-appropriate lessons:


Toddler Temper Tantrums First of all, don’t be surprised if your toddler starts kicking, yelling and crying over a simple game. It is very normal and appropriate for a 3-year-old to express his emotions physically rather than verbally. Calmly put the game away and remove your child from the situation. Once his emotions have calmed down, try talking about why he was so upset. Praise his victories by saying, “Even though you didn’t win this game, you did a great job coloring the picture earlier.” You may also want to focus on some non-competitive activities for a while.

Preschool Foul Play Preschoolers – 3- and 4-year-olds – may start cheating or changing the rules so they can win the game. To fight against this, set clear expectations before you start playing. Games like Candyland are about luck, which is a difficult concept for preschoolers to understand. As you sit down to play, set the tone by saying something like, “We can’t control what the dice will land on, so let’s focus on following the rules and having fun together.” If your child starts to change the rules, take her aside and remind her that you can have a good time following the rules.

Adult Actions As parents, we should model the behaviors we would like our kids to follow. Even if it’s all in fun, try to avoid trash-talking in front of the kids. We should also be careful of letting the kids win every time, which could set them up with unrealistic expectations. Letting your child lose will help teach him valuable lessons, like resilience and how to deal with disappointment. You can also model good sportsmanship by giving kids advice on how to play better in the future.

Remember – sports and games should be fun! Keep the focus on having a good time and learning, instead of only winning. If your child tells you about a game she played at school – ask her if he had fun or if he made new friends, instead of whether he won or lost. By setting these expectations at home, you’ll set the tone for a more gracious winner or loser at game time.


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