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The Importance of Losing

September 9, 2010

My kids went to the greatest birthday party a couple of weeks ago.  It had everything a kid could possibly want: 2 enormous bouncy houses, an all-you-can-eat nacho bar, a 4 foot tall pinata, 3 cakes – and tons of games.  But these weren’t the games my kids were used to playing, these were “old school” games.  Games where there was a clear winner – and a clear loser.  As I watched the kids duke it out in tug-of-war, I realized that my daughter had rarely lost a game in her life.  The games she had played at other parties, in school, and even at home didn’t dictate a clear winner, or more importantly, a clear loser.  She (and I for that matter) were more used to being praised simply for participating and giving it a good shot.

I’m not a competitive person, and I certainly see the benefits of encouraging participation and rewarding good effort.  But after watching my daughter switch sides when she realized her tug-of-war team was losing, and then throwing a fit like a toddler after losing a balloon-popping game I realized that learning to lose is important too.

Learning to lose gracefully is important for several reasons, but perhaps the most important is that it is just part of life.  Some of us lose a lot, some not so much, but none of us come out on top all the time.  Teaching our kids that losing can be part of a happy life is an important lesson, as is encouraging them to get up and try again after a failure or loss.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Angel permalink
    September 13, 2010 9:30 pm

    When I played Candyland as a kid, my grandparents would always let me win. And I’d be happy and go about my day. My father, on the other hand, would play a fair game. And if I lost, there was a tantrum. A big, loud, end-of-the-world, foot-stomping tantrum.

    I can see why my grandparents wanted to avoid the screampocalypse. But I’m fairly certain I learned a lot more from my dad’s technique. (I hope.)

    It’s sad to hear the stories about schools cutting out non-competitive games or hosting events where everyone is a winner. Is it really doing more damage to kids? Are they going missing out on learning a really important life lesson?

    And yes, that sounds like the coolest birthday ever. I’ m pretty sure my next one will need to include all you mentioned PLUS a sundae bar.

    • September 13, 2010 10:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Angel!
      There are times when I too will do just about anything to avoid a “screampocalypse” but realize there are likely consequences in avoiding them all the time!

      And I agree about the sundae bar – there’s always room for improvement 🙂

  2. September 14, 2010 2:08 pm

    You are so right – game play is a wonderful way for kids to learn how to lose in a safe, supportive space. .. and learning how it fees to lose also helps children learn to empathize and be a gracious winner when the tables turn.

    I actually just wrote about the life lessons kids and adults can gain from losing, would love to hear your thoughts! http://www.thinkfun.com/smartplayblog/?p=913

    The “everyone gets a trophy” mentality sets kids up for unrealistic expectations… in life we DO win and lose, and preparing kids to ride these ups and downs from an early age, and in a fun play setting, is hugely beneficial.

    • September 14, 2010 7:19 pm

      Charlotte
      Thanks for your comments. And thanks for bringing up how helping kids learn to lose, allows them to be better winners!

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  1. Teaching Our Kids Gratitude, One Birthday at a Time « Dr. Stephanie

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