Winning isn’t everything. Unless you are four.
For a variety of cognitive and developmental reasons, preschoolers have a hard time when they don’t win. Win at what? Well, just about everything. Getting in the car first. Finishing breakfast first. Making it to the front door first. Candyland. Chutes and Ladders. Go Fish.
When faced with your child’s dramatically distraught tears at not being the WINNER (and sometimes you didn’t even know there was a contest!), it’s not always easy to know what to do. It seems reasonable to tip the odds in their favor, right? To avoid a meltdown AND to give them the opportunity to succeed. But what about when your four year old is stacking the Candyland deck? Or hiding under the couch in a fit of tears when they aren’t the first one to the Candyland Castle?
Preschoolers are in the very beginning stages of learning about their feelings. Help them out by labeling the feelings you see them expressing.
“It’s disappointing not to be the winner.”
“You seem really sad that you didn’t win the game this time.”
Remind them that the game you played was a lot more than just winners versus losers.
“We had so much fun playing this game together!”
Model being a good loser.
“You won! Hooray! I’m second place! This game was so much fun!”
It’s easy to get frustrated with our little ones. All of the fun feels a little spoiled when your preschooler is sobbing. No one wants to play with a sore loser, right? Except as parents, it’s our job to help our children cope with disappointment and learn to be a gracious in “second place.” Unfortunately, our children’s lives will be filled with disappointment. This is inevitable and no amount of super parenting can (or should) protect them from this. Instead, we can help them label their feelings and develop coping skills. And we should play more games together!!! The more opportunities your child has to “lose” and realize that not only has the world not ended, but the game was actually fun regardless of who won, the sooner they will be able to manage their tears.