My kids went to the greatest birthday party a couple of weeks ago. It had everything a kid could possibly want: 2 enormous bouncy houses, an all-you-can-eat nacho bar, a 4 foot tall pinata, 3 cakes – and tons of games. But these weren’t the games my kids were used to playing, these were “old school” games. Games where there was a clear winner – and a clear loser. As I watched the kids duke it out in tug-of-war, I realized that my daughter had rarely lost a game in her life. The games she had played at other parties, in school, and even at home didn’t dictate a clear winner, or more importantly, a clear loser. She (and I for that matter) were more used to being praised simply for participating and giving it a good shot.
I’m not a competitive person, and I certainly see the benefits of encouraging participation and rewarding good effort. But after watching my daughter switch sides when she realized her tug-of-war team was losing, and then throwing a fit like a toddler after losing a balloon-popping game I realized that learning to lose is important too.
Learning to lose gracefully is important for several reasons, but perhaps the most important is that it is just part of life. Some of us lose a lot, some not so much, but none of us come out on top all the time. Teaching our kids that losing can be part of a happy life is an important lesson, as is encouraging them to get up and try again after a failure or loss.