How to teach your child to accept defeat

Winning and losing are part and parcel of life. But, how does one teach your child to face defeats? What strategies can parents adopt that can help their children face adversities? Read on to learn the right parenting techniques to follow.

Each morning I step onto my balcony and lean against the railing. The cold metal sends shock waves up my bare arms, tingling at my senses, making me feel a little more awake and more aware of my surroundings. I bask in the newness of the morning; inhale the fresh morning air and let the cool breeze bathe me. It is an invigorating stimulus, enough to kick-start my day.

Soon early morning walkers and runners hit the road and people carrying yoga mats start trotting towards the amphitheatre, but it is still quiet and serene until the shrill whistle of a robin breaks the silence. A robin pair perches on the clubhouse roof, each morning and fill the air with their loud whistling sounds. The sun's not fully up yet and I can barely make them out, but the whistling is music to the ears.

And soon they are gone, I don't see them anymore. But, shortly after, a pair of Rufous Treepie arrives, almost at the same spot. They are beautiful birds but their call is jarring – like a dead car's engine is being cranked. Nonetheless, my mornings are made beautiful by these birds and all the other birds which stop by on the lampposts and trees below. There is a whole bevvy of them - bulbuls, mynahs, pigeons, terns, drongos and sunbirds and more.

Every morning, a crow and a blackbird get into a 'dogfight' in an almost ritualistic routine. They put up an extraordinary show displaying adroitness and precision, dodging trees, branches and lampposts, chasing each other. Their fluid motion is in sync, turn for turn, and lift for lift, much like a show finale, making it appear as if the whole act is rehearsed.

Their arrival signals that it's time for me to step indoors, and put milk for my morning coffee to boil. But, today I stayed on the balcony a bit longer. I watched a father and daughter duo, on the badminton court. The man is a friend and he was playing a friendly match with his 6-year-old. Human behaviour interests me (it disgusts me too, but that's another story) and what unfolded on the court, fascinated me.

P kept missing shots and losing points. And each time he fumbled, his daughter let out a loud shout of glee. She hopped and clapped in delight – she was defeating her father and her excitement was palpable. Their little play took me back in time, as I reminisced all the times my dad lost to my brother and me, in a game chess or the times I let my daughter beat me in the swimming pool.

Good parenting defined

The rules of parenting are not defined, but everyone follows a parenting pattern. Good parenting is when adults provide their children with a stimulus other than just food, shelter, education and values.

It is important that parents engage with their children in activities that help build their confidence. A little victory (even a fake one) can boost a child's morale, manifold. It instils confidence in the child and makes them believe in their abilities. That is what most of us believe. But, is letting your child win, at all times, good for them?

Winning and losing a part of life

Winning or losing is part of life, haven't we all heard that. Yet, there is so much importance placed on winning that we neglect to teach our children valuable lessons about losing. We face wins and defeats throughout life, so it's important that our children learn not just how to participate, but also how to deal with the result.

Taking part is what counts, is what we tell children whenever they face defeat, but we fail to prepare them for that failure. A lot of how adults handle the victories and blows that life throws at them is fostered in them in their younger days. So, how does a parent prepare a child to face the punches? Every parent wants their child to succeed and it's tempting to allow the child to win every board game or race, but such rigged victories have repercussions.

A parent's role is not confined to seeing that the child always wins, but in raising the child to be a balanced adult. And for that, they need to be prepared to graciously accept the defeats. It is not always good to let the child win when they don't deserve the win, especially when the performance is dismal. In the long run, it does more harm than good.

Control & angst

The innocuous wins that you allow your child set a negative example. It can have damaging repercussions that affect not just the child, but adversely impacts the relationship you share with them.

A child needs parents who are in control, who are the best at everything they do. Children observe and learn from your actions. And they cannot always be fooled into believing that they won fair and square. It is better to teach the child how to win, rather than fake a victory. It is more gratifying when the wins are legitimate. You'll not always be around to let the wins happen – have you ever thought of that? By letting the child win at everything, you do not enable the child to cope with defeats. Imagine how damaging that can be.

All these false victories have an adverse accumulative effect. They can lead to the child becoming overtly anxious because the winning precedence pressurises him to win in all situations. Children need to know that their parents are strong and that they will step in when things begin to fall apart. Small defeats are big events for a child, and it teaches them to cope and be strong. A child who always wins will not have the defence mechanism to face defeat.

I don't advocate being critical of every attempt a child makes at doing something. That is not the point. The child doesn't need to be criticised but needs to be guided. That is the way forward.

Teach your child to handle defeat

Have you heard the term 'sore loser'? There is something offensive about people who cannot handle defeat with the same refinement as they handle success. It is important that your child is taught strategies that can help the child cope with failure. And the first step for that is that you let them lose at things. A child who is always allowed to win will never be able to cope with difficult situations.

Changing parenting styles

Parenting styles have seen a paradigm shift from what they were thirty-forty years ago. Earlier parents were more authoritarian and inculcated strict discipline in their children. Today's parents are more laid-back and though the shift has been in a positive direction, many parents go to the other extreme. Allowing the child to experience just wins is often part of this extreme pattern.

Teach through example

It is important for parents to be role models. But, taking that role a little too seriously and presenting a perfect world (albeit falsely), to the children is not the way to go about it. The thing is a 'perfect world' doesn't exist. There will always be imperfections. Parents are too concerned about shielding their children and falter, in doing so. It is fine to shift from a disciplinarian style of parenting to a chummy relationship, but don't let that prevent you from preparing your child for the world outside. A world where rules exist, rules that don't allow you to win through nefarious ways. By imparting society's rules on your child, you'll be doing them a favour. Victories and defeats are part of the rules.

Now comes the big question – how do you help your child learn to be gracious about victories and take defeats in their stride.

Be selective, make wise choices

  • Start the lessons early, when the child is really young. Pick games and activities where they stand a chance of winning. Choose board games that will keep them engaged and enhance development. Keep it simple
  • Children lose interest if they see that they aren't winning. Let them win a few times, to build their interest, but don't let them maintain that winning spree. Allow them to lose too, fair and square
  • Remember to be gracious when you lose. Don't get agitated or show anger. Instead say something like, "better luck next time" or "I'll play better in the next game". Your aim is to set an example and in taking defeat sportingly, you let them know that the loss isn't the end of the world and there is another chance. Let them learn from you, how to play a game, with its wins and losses
  • If a child is being a poor loser, then you need to stop the game and explain the rules about winning and losing
  • Older children can be made to watch sports on television or at the stadium, so they see the camaraderie that exists between opposing teams – when the shake hands and greet each other before and after the game. They watch and learn from the reaction of the losing team. They also see how players who break the rules are punished
  • Lastly, always guide your child, elucidating the fact that winning and losing are part of the game and that they have to be gracious in both

Parenting is challenging and every parent wants what is best for their child. But, don't be guided by emotions. Study the pros and cons of your parenting style and do what is best for the child, not for that moment, but in the long run. It is your duty to prepare them to face the world, with its pleasantries and unpleasant surprises. So, take positive steps and change your parenting style today.

Share this article if you found it helpful, so it can be helpful to other parents as well.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 552 articles authored by Juana

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Author: Umesh02 Mar 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

Parenting a child in a proper and guiding way is not that easy. It requires great skills which a very few parents possess. The child may do many mistakes time and again though a few times he may be excelling in his performance. In any case, parents have to be very selective in appreciating or banging the child as per the occasion.

Those children who are pampered and facilitated for everything in the house later miserably fail in their life and can not withstand the turmoils of life in the practical world.

So it is advisable to make them rough and tough from the beginning so that when they leave the comforts of house and start their struggle in the competitive world, they do not feel discouraged or demotivated.

Teaching them to sometimes accept their defeat is a part of this process.

Author: Venkiteswaran24 May 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 1

A child should be exposed to contests and competitions from a very early stage. Initially, as the contests will be with friends or familiar people only, negative emotions will not be there in losing also. Each time of losing, the child should be taught that failure is only temporary and it is a part of the game. It is one's proper performance and sportsman spirit that is the priority. The child should be taught that failure does not mean the end of the world. But failure should inspire us for more focused and sincere training and practice and make things better.

Author: Juana14 Jun 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5


Everyone makes mistakes, and children are no exception. Indeed, parenting is a challenging job. How a child turns out, is reflective on the parenting the child received.

Appreciation must be a big part of a child’s growing up years. Every little feat needs to be admired. It helps build confidence in children and makes them set the bar higher. Admonishing a child, ‘banging’ as you put it, is not good. People may have an opinion about following the spare the rod and spoil the child theory, but I believe in correcting the child rather than punishing.

A child’s view of things is limited. Children do not have the same perspective as adults. It is important that they are corrected when they go wrong not through punishment but through example and conversation. The fear of punishment is not what should stop a child from doing wrong. The child should be made to understand why their actions and behaviour is wrong. When they are given explanations for why adults find their behaviour unacceptable they understand and refrain from committing the same blunders again.

Children should always be explained why not to do something, instead of just being ordered to not do it.

Author: Juana26 Jun 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3


Contests and competitions are part of every school going child’s life and not everyone wins at everything, is a fact. However, some children may get dejected at not winning and harbor resent and negative emotions.

Parents and guardians must instil the following in children –

1. Give it your best
2. Be fully prepared
3. Play by the rules
4. Don’t take shortcuts
5. Be honest and diligent
6. Don’t lose sight of the competitors, they too put in their best
7. Know your strengths and work on your weaknesses
8. Know your opponent’s strengths and match them
9. Play to win, but remember that others do the same
10. Technically there can be just one winner and only the best one wins
11. Be a gracious winner
12. Be a gracious loser, remember the opponent was better and deserved the win
13. Learn from defeats and don’t repeat the mistakes made
14. Don’t allow victories go to the head

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