Ask Dr. Mary

Sore Loser

Q. My son doesn?t like to lose in games, and it bothers me to see him so upset. Should I let him win?

A. Even though it?s a hard lesson, children must learn to play by the rules. It?s easier to help your child practice winning and losing in a game around the kitchen table than on the playground or soccer field.

That?s why it?s important to help your child grow through experiences at home. As a preschooler, one of our children repeatedly stomped off when she lost at Candyland. We simply said, "Maybe you?ll win next time, but it was fun to play anyway, wasn?t it?" Even though we tried to shift the emphasis to the process of playing the game instead of winning or losing, Christy found it hard to accept losing. She still does. Now as a college senior, she?s still highly competitive.

Obviously, you can?t change basic aspects of your child?s personality, but you can help him cope with feelings appropriately. If your 5-year-old wildly scrambles all the pieces after losing a game, you might say, "Even though it?s hard to keep playing when you see someone else win, we?re playing to have fun. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. We can still have a good time together. I like being with you. That?s what counts." If your 7-year-old wants to bend the rules when playing a game with her brother, remind her that the guidelines are there for a reason and she can always play again tomorrow. Tomorrow she might win, but win or lose you can all have fun if you?re playing together. If your 8-year-old tries to cheat, talk to him about playing fair and the consequences of right and wrong.

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