The Mommy Chronicles: Teaching Your Littles How to Compete Graciously

Beaux William at a karate tournament with his friend, Sam Barrett. Beaux William at a karate tournament with his friend, Sam Barrett. Marlena Rice

Growing up, I despised losing. I was a competitive swimmer for nearly 13 years, and thank goodness I broke records, or I would have had a fit. Or two. Or three. On the occasions I received a medal other than gold, I would practice even harder, extending my five-day-a-week practices by swimming additional laps and sprints while at the local swimming pool with friends. 

Now that I have a four-year-old who has begun competing in his own extracurriculars, I find that hunger coming back. Such a mom thing, I know, wanting my child to always win. But after attending a larger karate tournament recently, I found myself wondering how I will help mold him as he competes, teaching him to win graciously – and to maintain a good spirit during losses. 

It's important for every child to understand that they will lose at something at some point in the future. If this isn’t taught, we can look forward to another super entitled generation. I’m a millennial myself, and while I think it is okay for smaller children to win medals for participation, I also think it is important to teach them that a loss is a loss. But a loss is not always a true loss when experiences and relationships are gained. What if we teach kids that losing is a part of life, and that learning to lose in a gracious manner may give them a foot ahead of the crowd in the future? 

Here are a few tips from a mom who struggled with losing and is working toward teaching her Little to be gracious in all circumstances. 

1) Don’t always allow your child to win when you’re competing against them. I mean, I get it. It’s almost bedtime, and “losing” that last game of cards with your child might make the trek to bed a little easier. Just don’t make a habit of this. That’s right. Kick your Little’s booty in checkers or Monopoly. Your child will be better for it.

2) After winning, and helping your child understand that losses will occur, model what you preach. Don’t trash talk or boo the other team. Yes, you have pride in your team, but let your child know that even though you’re upset because of a loss, a game is just a game – and you’ll have better luck next time. 

3) Teach your children games that require skilled thinking. Chess, for instance, teaches children analytical power, decision-making, and assessment. Not only will they grow intellectually, but if they happen to lose, your Little will understand the complexity of being able to successfully play such a game, win or lose. This is how dedication and commitment start. When your strategy doesn’t work in chess, don’t you want to practice and perfect it for the next game?

4) Acknowledge your child’s compassion. When you see your children congratulate a friend after a game, let them know you’re proud that they congratulated a fellow competitor despite their own upset feelings.   

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Marlena Rice

Marlena Rice is a busy mom and writer who lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, Rod, and their son, Beaux William. Her new book, “Pacifiers, Flatbeds and Barn Wood Thingamajigs, a ‘Come to Jesus Guide’ for the New, Southern Mom,” will be available on soon. 


Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.



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