Teaching children how to lose

I remember vividly playing Monopoly when I was still in primary school and losing badly. With tears streaming down my cheeks I ran up to my room to read a book while my mum, dad and little brother finished there game.

That wasn’t my first lesson in losing of course but it was one that stuck with me since we tended to not play games as a family that often. When I was a little older I did play chess, Orthello and cribagge with my dad and won as many as I lost but without those earlier lessons in losing, I wouldn’t have been very much fun to play.

The boy is four now, and has already had a few lessons in defeat. Primarily at games that aren’t skill based, like Pop Up Pirate, where even if I wanted to (and I’m not sure I do), I can’t let him win. There have been tears, shouting and upset but at the end he wants to play again. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being competitive.

Back in 2005 some well meaning teacher caused a bit of a storm by suggesting that failure be replaced with deferred success, saying that some kids got depressed if they faced failure. To my mind, the deferred success route was wrong: the kids simply needed to be taught that to try and fail is acceptable.

no running, someone might
not be as fast as you!

Which brings me to the boys first sports day today, which someone on twitter told me sounded like a parent attended PE lesson. The kids were split into groups and went round a series of stations doing each activity repeatedly for 3 minutes until someone blew a whistle. They had fun but there were no obvious winners and consequently no obvious losers. Some might say that 4 is a little too young to get competitive but heaven knows I’m not the competitive sort. You can probably tell if you’ve read any of my blog over the last couple of years. I’m not the sort of competitive dad who in years to come will lamp the referee at junior football or anything.

Of course learning to be gracious in victory is as important as learning to be dignified in defeat, something that seems to have been missed in the drive to non competitive sports at schools.

And dammit, there wasn’t a dads race :)