The right to dignity and the obligation to respect

"Honor your opponent and treat them courteously, be modest in victory and behave respectfully in a loss"

In this article on helping children learn to accept defeat gracefully, Barish writes "When playing games, many young children take great pleasure in their victory - and in our defeat. To insure their victory, they will cheat. They may make up their own rules, changing them for their purposes and to their advantage during the course of the game. Often, they are not content with winning. They also engage in some expression of gleeful triumph - boasting, bragging, and taunting. Or, if they lose, they may throw game pieces, insist on a “do-over,” or refuse to play." 

None of these things make children bad or naughty. Of course not. Barish highlights that this sort of behaviour is perfectly normal and that being able to accept defeat gracefully is something which is developed through a process of emotional maturation and socialization. As adults, we have the opportunity to be able to teach children some key skills:  

1. It's okay to lose 

The first thing that we need to get clear is the basketball example, which goes like this:


Imagine trying to shoot some basketballs against a bunch of toddlers - first person to make ten baskets is the winner. Now imagine trying to shoot some basketballs but this time against Michael Jordan.  Neither of those are examples of fair competition. In fact, they're not examples of competition at all. A competition, by definition, requires two people of a similar ability that both stand similar chances at winning.

If, before a playing a game, you knew that you were so much better than the person that you were playing against that you would beat them hands down, then that wouldn't be much fun. In fact, there wouldn't really be much point in playing in the first place. 


Part of the fun of playing a game is the excitement that comes from the anticipation of not knowing what the end result will be.


2. you can learn from your losses

Pete explains that "since losing games is inevitable, learning from losses is important. No matter how you lose a game, you can learn something from it — otherwise, you wouldn’t have lost."

As parents and educators, the way that we can foster this mentality of being able to learn from losses is by creating an environment where losses and mistakes are not stigmatized in the first place. We want to help the child not equate "loss" with "failure" and rather see it as something that happens from time to time and something that we can learn from. If we are able to combine losing a game with humor and lightheartedness then this will help children not to see their losses as being the end of the world.

3. Praise their efforts

Morin writes that "If you praise your child for scoring the most goals in the soccer game or for getting the highest grade on his math test, your words will fuel his competitive nature. Praise him for his hard work and his effort regardless of the final outcome."