Losing is a part of adult life that we seem to have decided as a society is no longer important to teach to our kids. When did we stop teaching winning and losing to our children. We teach sports with no score, classes with no grades and the theory that everyone is a winner. This is a false lesson we are teaching our children because in life everyone is not a winner. In life there will always be winners and losers, rich and poor, success and failure. Not teaching children to lose and to learn from losing will handicap their development in the future and could make them unable to effectively handle losing and failure as adults. Learning to accept losing and to learn from losing early in life helps children succeed and become well adjusted adults in the future.
Last year I was the assistant coach on my daughter’s T-ball team. Coaching sports for children is new to me so I had a lot to learn. One of the things I had to learn was that we did not keep score. Not only did we not keep score, we did not have outs and everyone got to run home. Nowhere in that season were we teaching winning and losing to these children. Because this was the first year for most of these kids, I decided it might be a good idea to teach them the game without having to explain to them that they lost or that they were out, but I wondered how long this continued.
I asked a public school coach what age schools start teaching winning and losing in sports. He told me high school. I was shocked that my child would be nearly 14 years old before she would be able to learn from losing. Since society is not teaching children to lose until their teens, it’s no wonder we have so many poor sports and bad losers in our society. It’s no wonder that a large part of our adult population looks for reasons outside themselves to explain their failures and lack of success.
I recently competed for a promotion at work which I did not get. The job was given to one of the other 15 candidates I was competing against. When I told my seven year old daughter that I did not get the promotion her initial reply was, “That’s not fair.” My loss and my daughter’s responses to it allowed me to have an important discussion with her about winning and losing. I explained to her that in all competitions someone wins and someone loses. I told her that we should always strive to be the best, but sometimes someone does better than us and they win. While this is definitely disappointing, it is not unfair. I told her that we need to learn from losing so that we can do better in the future. Because our societal organizations are more and more afraid to teach our children about losing, lessons like this at home are more important than ever.
One of the reasons parents and educators have placed less and less emphasis on teaching winning and losing with children is that for many years we as adults have placed too much importance on winning. We have all been to the little league game with that parent who is far to invested in the result of the game. It is pretty widely known that this overemphasis on winning puts so much pressure on kids to win that all but the best athletes become disinterested in sports all together. Overemphasis on winning and losing can also cause a drop in self esteem in those who do not win.
Another reason parents and teachers do not like teaching winning and losing is because it is harder. It is much easier to tell all the kids they are winners than to have to explain to some of them that they did not win. Although we as adults and parents do need to put less emphasis on winning, we should not completely avoid teaching winning and losing to our children in sports, games and academics.
When children do not learn from losing they grow up thinking that the game is rigged when they are not successful. They think the system is out to get them and that life is not fair. When they do not accept any of the responsibility for their losses, they will never learn to do better in the future.
Teaching children to lose and to learn from losing will help them be more resilient in their adult life. Learning that we can lose today and win tomorrow is essential. Later in life in college and in the job world true competition still exists and your child needs to be ready for it. When you are looking for a job you are competing with everyone else that also wants that job. When you are seeking a promotion at your job you will be competing with others for that promotion. By teaching winning and losing, our children will have the opportunity to learn from their losses and study what they did wrong. Yes, it is ok to say we did something wrong. Only when we study what we do wrong can we give ourselves the opportunity to get better. As long as we talk with our children and ensure that we encourage them to do their best, congratulate them when the win and encourage them to do better when they lose, teaching winning and losing should be a part of raising children.