Winning and Losing

Dr. Corinne Masur

Today is a good day to talk to your kids about winning and losing. The subjects of sportsmanship, humility and grace come to mind – as well as braggadocio, sore losing and bitterness.

Whatever side of the electoral battle you were on, you and your children will be having strong feelings today – and this week – and perhaps for months to come.

So what do we say to our children? And at what age are they ready to have this conversation?

Well, really children of any age, starting around 3 know about winning and losing – and they can talk about the feelings that come when they experience each. Of course, depending on your child’s age, you will speak about this differently.

But the place to start is to remind your child – whatever age they are – that how they and your family feel at this moment is not the way that everyone feels. Some people are extremely happy and relieved today and some people are extremely disappointed and upset today. And you can remind them that it is normal to feel happy when you win and upset when you lose.

HOWEVER – and this is where the more nuanced part of the discussion comes in – it is important, however you feel, to be aware that other people might feel differently than you do and to treat them and their feelings with respect.

Good sportsmanship is something that kids who play sports should be learning. You can provide this as an example: after a game, your team shakes hands with the other team to indicate that you both played a good game and that there are no hard feelings left over from the competition.

The losers can feel upset but still lose graciously. This is a concept that can be introduced to a 3 year old and also to a 16 year old.

And the winners can feel happy and joyous but they can also behave graciously by telling their competitors that they played a good game. Children can be reminded that bragging about winning is not the way to go, even though inside it feels so good to win.

You can tell your children the story of “burying the hatchet”. When Native American tribes had disputes or wars with each other, when it was over, they literally buried a hatchet in the ground to symbolize the end of the disagreement.

This is a way to handle winning and losing too. After someone has won or lost, it is time to bury the hatchet, to accept the defeat or the victory and to move back to getting along.

Today, I fervently hope that our nation can do this – and that all of our children can learn something about how to win and how to lose with grace.

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