When Losing Is Actually Winning

Dear Mr. Dad: My kids are 9 and 11 and they’re fortunate enough to be good at almost everything they do. But if something comes up that they don’t pick up immediately—whether it’s a sport, a board game, an art project, or something else—they tend to get frustrated and quit. How can I get them to understand that losing—or at least not being perfect at everything—is part of life?

A: You’ve just put your finger on one of the biggest challenges facing parents today: how to teach our children not only to accept failure but to embrace it. Unfortunately, too many children and young adults have spent most of their life in a world where they’re told every day that they’re amazing and fantastic, and where they get trophies and awards for just showing up. The message is clear: If you’re going to get the same reward whether you work hard or not, why trouble yourself?

At the same time, we live in a world where we’re obsessed with performance—whether that’s good grades and high test scores, playing on an elite sports team and leading the league in home runs or touchdowns, or landing a high-paying job. The message there is also clear: You have to be the best. If you’re not, you’re nothing. Or, as Cam Newton, quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, who lost Superbowl L (50) put it, “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

Together, those two messages have created the situation your kids, and millions of others, are in: If they can do something extremely well right off the bat, they’ll do it. If not, they’ll quit in a hurry rather than risk being seen as a loser. At the same time, in order to keep being seen as winners—and to keep the “you’re amazing” comments and awards coming in—they gravitate towards activities they know they can excel at.

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Photo credit: pixabay.com



Armin Brott

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Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, mrdad.com. You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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