How can you teach your kids to make the most out of losses? Lots of ways, says Frank J. Sileo, Ph.D, a psychologist with more than 16 years’ experience working with kids and families, and the author of “Sally Sore Loser: A Story about Winning and Losing.”
First of all, you need to understand how important it is for your young athletes to make mistakes and lose—then learn from their experience, he says.
“We don’t adequately prepare kids for future losses and disappointment,” says Sileo. If children never make mistakes, and never fail, they’re often devastated when, as adults, things don’t go their way.
For example, he says, “As adults, we don’t always get accepted to the college of our choice, we don’t always marry the fist person we fall in love with. We need to teach kids how to be good losers and what to learn from ‘We didn’t come in first that time,’” he says.
Too often, however, parents buy into our culture’s “We have to win at all costs” focus. Too often, parents think that if their children fail, they are failures themselves. So they try to prevent losses in their kids’ lives.
But it’s important to look at failure and losing in different ways.
“Failure is an opportunity to get your children to look at themselves,” says Sileo.
Playing sports is a great way to do just that and learn important life skills, says Sileo. Those skills include working hard, coping with losing, re-evaluating goals and continuing to persevere in the face of adversity.
“We are a culture of ‘Number One,’” Sileo says. “Kids need to accept losing. It helps build character and humility and perseverance and helps kids cope with losing in the future.”
To best help your kids with losses, you need to first of all be a good role model. That means you don’t want to yell from the sidelines, argue with the refs, or yell at the coach if your players aren’t getting enough playing time. If you have a problem with a coach or ref, you need to approach them politely, at the appropriate moment—not in the heat of the moment, Sileo says. What’s more, you should be as positive as possible with your sports kids.
“Teach them to improve their skills, play fairly, and have fun,” he says. And when they’re upset with losses, explain that everyone makes mistakes. Work with your young athletes to re-evaluate their goals and understand what went wrong and how to perform better next time.
Is there anything positive they can take away from their losses? For example, maybe your kids learned about a weakness that wasn’t obvious, and now know they need to work on this weakness. Maybe they connected with team-mates in ways they hadn’t connected with them before. These are the “wins” you can find in losses.
Want to learn more about how to be the best sports parents possible and how to improve your kids’ performance and enjoyment in sports?
Here at Kids’ Sports Psychology, we have many resources for you. First of all, exclusive members can listen to our interview with Sileo here:
To listen to the first half of this interview, use the player below:
What’s more, at Kids’ Sports Psychology, you’ll find additional audios, videos, e-books, articles, Question-and-Answers and much more—all about how to improve your sports parenting skills and help your kids make the most of their talents.
Here’s what people say about our resources:
Hi Lisa and Patrick: The resources that you have available on your website have been wonderful. I am slowly learning that a sound mental game may be more important then the actual physical part of the sport that your child plays. Yes you have to have the talent but the mental game is what sets apart a very good athlete compared to an elite athlete . As a parent you need to find the time to teach yourself and help your child understand the Psychology of sport.
Help your kids make the most of their sports experience!
Lisa Cohn and Patrick Cohn, Ph.D.
P.S. Exclusive members should check out our interview with Dr. Sileo and listen to all his tips for helping kids learn how to turn losses into wins: