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Ask an Expert - Dealing with Winning and Losing

My daughter gets very upset when her team loses a game. How can I help her roll with the wins and the losses?

Joe Deutsch, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Competition can be both good and bad, and a certain amount of maturity is required to handle it. Children who are tee ball age may not be developmentally ready to handle competitive situations. The focus at this level should be on developing skills, having fun and exhibiting good sportsmanship. Oftentimes, children still continue to focus on winning and losing.

As you try to figure out what is motivating your daughter to be so upset, take a close look at how the coaches/parents are responding to the situation. Our society is extremely achievement focused, and many parents/coaches pressure their
children at early ages to win and be the best at all costs.

If adults in your daughter’s life are doing this, they may need to back off a little. Your daughter should try hard so she can feel proud of herself; but if she doesn't win, she needs to accept the loss, learn from her mistakes and have a good attitude about trying again.

Help her learn to balance the satisfaction of playing a game with the aspiration of winning. This may take several conversations, with you pointing out examples when others are too competitive or out of line. As parents and coaches, you are responsible for communicating what is and is not an acceptable response. Modeling the behavior you expect is the most positive and productive way to change her behavior.

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