Monday, 5 September 2016

Teaching kids to win and lose.

I was thinking about writing about this topic in the summer term when we, with school children, were all experiencing sports days: competitive ones and non-competitive ones, but the time never came round and I forgot. Recently I was reminded about how important it is to teach children about winning and losing.
As parents, I think most of us would say that we would always want our children to do well in whatever their passion is, whether it is in sports or in the arts, whatever it is that captures them, we would always push them to be the best they can. When it comes to things that they might strive or fail, I think we can sometimes blur the lines. Cheering them: Run faster, like it is an important thing and consoling them when they are upset they didn't run fast enough. 
It must be hard for a child to experience a parent's competitiveness. Their joy at winning something must be elating as they see the joy on your face after you have cheered them on, but what must they feel when they don't win? Does the losing bother them or are they upset because we may be upset that they didn't win?

I am one of those parents who fully believe in competition. I would say I wasn't competitive; everyone else would say I am, but one thing I am not is a sore loser. What needs to be taught is the drive to do you best and the love to congratulate people who beat you. I hate it when Raph gets upset that he didn't win something. Example; we played croquet the other night, something we have actually done a lot this holiday. Rob (easily the most skilled player) sets up a course and we all have a go. Etta is useless and she is bored and off dancing with the fairies (litterally) after about 2 hits, but Raph has a real drive for competing. But, we as his parents don't let him win, well, try not to. Why? Because it is good for him to lose. You cannot be good at everything. Fact. And children who are built up to constantly win cannot deal with losing and that is something we need to instill in our children. At points through their life they will be beaten at things and they must learn to be gracious.

With Our game of croquet, Rob obviously won, he always does, and it was when that moment of Rob winning that Raph quickly got agitated. You can tell, instant failing until we suggest "who comes second" then the game is on again, and more often than not he actually beats me without me purposefully missing shots! 
Something that I have also noticed with him is that he plays the parents role with Etta, "I'll just let her beat me mum" he says in some scenarios offering the chance for himself to be the martyr and lose. I think it is quite commendable really. I would rather he understood that winning is great achievement and supporting others is also a fantastic achievement in a way. You also win if you are a great sportsman. 

Rob and I always think that about Roger Federer. Not only is the man stunning (yes we both think so) but he has the most fantastic attitude towards sports and seeing others do better than him. He is a gentleman and so respectful of his competitors, especially when they beat him. I saw a facebook video of him called 'the greatest sportsman ever' as when he lost one of his recent matches he didn't just pack up and leave the court, he waited for his victorious competitor to pack his things and walked behind him so that he was lead off by him. It was so fantastic to see, he was honouring the winner, who had worked harder and beaten him. I am sure a lot of also saw that viral video of the school children at their sports day all linking arms and running behind there class mate who had Down's syndrome and who had never won a race against them. What an act for the children who wanted to push and support a team mate by making sure they they themselves lost. But in a way that was so rewarding for the young boy who was able to win. I am sure it was rewarding for them too, I am sure they also felt like winners, they definitely won the hearts of the people who saw the video!

For me, it is so important to make sure you always teach your children to try their best, that winning is good and something we should strive to achieve but that coming second, third, fourth, etc. is also a fantastic achievement if they tried their best. What I really want to instill in our kids is the sportsman attitude of being first to congratulate the winner. Not only in words, but in actually happiness: they did better and that's a good thing, and hopefully it will allow kids like Raph not fall to the ground as soon as he thinks he has lost, but say "well done" and keep trying.


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