Wednesday, November 17, 2010

sore loser

I was able to pick Cal up from school today to take him to a playdate at a nearby bowling alley with one of his new school buddies. This was Cal's first time bowling, and though the Wii has given him some good working knowledge of score keeping and the rules of play, it also gave him an inaccurate sense of how good he actually is at the game.

Faced with this crushing realization, he may have not been the best sport about it.

I gave Cal the old "It's not if you win or lose, it's how you play the game" talk, but he wasn't really having it. I was so bad at sports at a kid that for me, losing was a foregone conclusion. But Cal is different, Cal wants to WIN, in that "second place is just first loser" kind of way. Any advice on how to teach your kid better sportsmanship? Or should he just start rehearsing his "I'm not here to make friends" reality show villain speech?

(One more thing: note the bumpers along the gutters that the bowling alley puts up whenever they have younger kids playing. Heed my word and NEVER LET THEM PLAY WITHOUT THOSE BUMPERS. The score would have otherwise been zero to zero the whole hour we were there, yet another crushing blow to an already bruised ego.)


  1. The one thing that I think helped me be not (much of) a sore loser was the experience of getting to see my Dad lose to me at chess and Tetris, and also losing to him at those games when I was in the 10-12 age range. If he was throwing the games, it wasn't apparent, and so I got to see him handle defeat gracefully and get the experience of losing myself in a 'safe' environment, not surrounded by gloating kids.

    I was mediocre at swimming before that point, but while I'd gotten practice at losing without throwing a tantrum, I hadn't gotten practice at losing *gracefully*. So I guess my advice is make sure Cal does a lot of things that he's not all that good at. :)

  2. I still suck at losing. Sadly I have no advice.

  3. I have gone through this "phase" with both of my sons, who are competitive and athletic, and somehow believed themselves to be infallible (both in academics and in sports) for a time.

    If I had to give my method of helping them see beyond their own scores, I'd call it "empathy training". I often ask them to examine things from another person's perspective and while the topics and depth of conversation change with age, the principle remains the same. "Imagine if you had won, how would that make you feel?" "I know you are disappointed that your friend X won. How do you think he/she feels since he/she won?" "How would you feel if he won every time?" "How would you feel if you won every time?" "How would that make your friend feel if you won every time?" You can see where this is going...

    Sometimes the situation is too volatile right after a game to have this sort of discussion, so I would use other "teachable moments" often. It is much easier to have these discussions in a neutral setting (e.g. when watching others play and react).

    This has also extended into other areas of their lives and has helped shape them into kind and considerate people (apologies, if I come across as bragging, it is not my intent at all, I am simply being honest).

  4. Anonymous10:33 AM

    In my house, tantrums & sore loser behavior equals the abrupt end of game. I am especially intolerant of verbal ranting at video games. This equals game over. My kids always warned kids that came over to play. This BS doesn't "go away" on its own and frankly, my free time is valuable and nobody should have to endure such displays of selfishness. Yep--I am hardcore on this one. (ps my kids (16,21,24)turned out ok so far)

  5. Minigolf. Just don't explain that the highest score is actually the loser :)

  6. Anonymous1:53 PM

    Hi Michelle, I just started reading ur blog and I think you write brilliantly! Gives me hope that there is a life outside medicine cos frankly at the med student stage, we just cant wait to finish! -J (Australia)

  7. One thing I think we've tried with the kids is to really emphasize the idea that it's fun to spend time together and model being a gracious loser when we play games with the kids. I also like A.S.'s suggestions about talking and getting kids to empathise with another mindset.

  8. Jamie2:13 AM

    Lest we forget, Yo Gabba Gabba and The Shins remind us that.. "Sometimes you lose..

    But it's okay, try again!"
    Haha, a personal favorite. :)

  9. I still play with those bumpers...

  10. Can't wait to see the proofs!
    And read the book!