Thursday, January 7, 2010

BEEing a Mom: Teaching Little Ones About Winning & Losing Gracefully

Earlier this week, my son, Hayden, and I played a few games of Candy Land. For the first two games, Hayden moved into the lead early on. Each time he drew a card from the pile and moved his game piece, he announced to me, "I'm going to win this game." Smiling from ear to ear and giggling, Hayden was clearly having fun. He won the first two games, and I gave him a "high five" to congratulate him.

But early on in the third game, I took the lead. Hayden's upbeat disposition quickly turned to a glum one. With his bottom lip pushed out and tears forming in his eyes, he said, "You can't win, Mom!" When I reached the Candy Castle and won the game, he announced he didn't want to play anymore. Gently, I tried to explain to him that sometimes we win games and sometimes we lose them, but the reason we play is to have fun. He didn't seem to understand this.

Hours later, I found myself reflecting on this experience, wondering when is an appropriate age to begin teaching little ones how to win and lose gracefully. I flipped through several of my parenting books but couldn't find an answer to my question. I then searched for articles on the Internet and soon learned that Hayden's reaction to winning and losing is common among young children, and I found many examples of other parents beginning to teach their little ones lessons about winning and losing.

With Hayden turning four next month, I believe now is a good time to begin teaching him these lessons. One of the best ways to do this is to model how to win and lose gracefully. When we play board games together, I can model graceful losing by congratulating him for winning and graceful winning by not gloating and by telling him what a great game he played.

But I also realize I need to be cognizant of how I act in other winning and losing situations in life. As we all know, our kids watch us very closely and learn from our actions--the good ones and the bad ones. And they mimic us. So in all our actions, we need to be alert to the unspoken lessons we're teaching them. For example, if we don't receive a promotion at work, we need to model to our kids how to gracefully handle this situation, even when we don't think the outcome was fair.

Another way to teach my son about winning and losing gracefully is to talk to him about how to do this. How do you win gracefully? I might explain to him that you don't brag about it, you don't criticize the loser's performance, and you shake his hand and tell him he played a good game. And how do you lose gracefully? I might tell him that even though he may not be happy about losing, it's always nice to smile and congratulate the winner. I might also tell him when he starts to lose a game, he needs to hang in there and finish it. It's not fair to the winner to forfeit before the game is over, and in any game, an underdog still can pull ahead and win before it's over.

Finally, when my son is in the midst of winning or losing, I can use this situation as an opportunity to teach him about his emotions and how to appropriately respond to them. Young children are learning about their emotions, and they don't always know how to respond to them. But as parents, we're given the job to teach them about their emotions and how to use them. When our children are winning or losing, we can ask them how they feel, help them label that emotion, and teach them how to appropriately respond to it.

I realize teaching my son how to win and lose gracefully will require me to be consistent and intentional. He may not understand these lessons during our next game of Candy Land, but I hope that with each game he plays, he will begin to comprehend and adopt them.

BEEsy Mama Question: How are you teaching your children to win and lose gracefully?

No comments:

Post a Comment