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How to Teach your Child about Healthy Competition

its okay to lose


Last week was Sports Day at my daughter’s school. She was part of the Yellow House. She had to wear yellow and race for points. The Yellow house won. I was really pleased for my daughter because last year the green house won. In fact, when the winning house was announced last year, many little faces turned sour. There were many tears and tantrums and children were bitter because they had lost.

This was not right! I wanted to tell the children “It’s okay to lose”.

A few months later I began noticing that my child was also becoming more and more competitive. As a mother this was a first for me. I really wasn’t sure what to do or what to say to help my daughter understand that she did not have to come first in everything.

My daughter wanted to win the daily maths knockouts. She wanted to get an assembly award every week. She started to come home upset when she only got 9 out of 10 in her spelling. My child felt sad when she lost a board game. In her mind she had to win everything. The world was black or white, win or lose, there was no middle ground.

Despite this new challenge, competition was becoming increasingly problematic for my daughter and something had to be done to help her understand and learn that it’s okay to lose.

Teaching my daughter to compete in a healthy way has been a learning curve for both me and my child. She has now mastered a healthy attitude and is able to have joy in her successes. She does not get upset when she loses. She accepts it gracefully as she knows it is not possible to be the best at everything, all the time. No one is perfect.

With this in mind, I am sharing some tips on how to teach your child about healthy competition and that it’s okay to lose.

Teach children that everyone is different.

As parents we can teach young children that everyone is different and unique. We can talk with our children about the fact each child has talents. Sarah may be fast at running, whilst Joe is good at drawing. John may be good at counting but not so good at writing. Emma might be great at swimming but not as good at singing.

As a child begins to understand they have different talents, strengths and weaknesses they will then be ready to learn that they cant possibly be the best at everything and that it is okay to do better in one subject or talent than another.

Teach children that it is okay to lose

Losing is never fun. From a young age children pick up that winning is the best result. As parents it is important to teach our children that it’s okay to lose. We can talk to children about the importance of everyone having a chance to win. We can teach our children to be happy for their friends when a friend wins.

I asked my child how she would feel if she lost every single time. She said she would be really sad. I explained to her that we all need turns to win which helps us feel happy but we can also be happy when a friend wins as we can feel happy for them.

(This really was a turning point in my daughter’s understanding. She still wants to win but if she does not, she is now able to say, well at least my friend won and that is nice for them)

Teach children that achieving and winning requires hard work.

As parents we can teach our children that in order to be good at something we have to practice. If my daughter wants to get a high score in her spelling then we have to practice the words everyday. I have put a lot of effort into teaching my child that it’s okay to be “just good” and to get average results in school and sports. However she also knows that if she wants to do “better” she needs to put in the effort.

I teach my child that in everything we do, there is “good, better and best”. Whilst it is important to try our best, we can be happy when we simply do better than last time or get a good or average score. We can teach children to aim to be their best possible self but to remain happy even if they haven’t improved in the way they would have liked to.

The “good, better, best” principle can really help in any of life’s situations, not just when we compete but also in all we choose to do. This is the case for both adults and children. We can celebrate the good in our lives, our good achievements and teach children that just because we did not win or get the perfect result, it does not make us as individuals worth any less.

Teach children to have fun.

Often times it can be easy to forget the fun of learning, playing and competing when one only focuses upon the end result or upon winning the game or getting the top score.

We can teach our children to be good sports and to enjoy participating in a game or activity without getting caught up in the competitive side. Of course it is important to try to win a race or to win, a board game however it is not the end of the world if we do not win.

I talk to my child and remind her that playing games with mum and dad is about spending time together and having fun. It’s not just about winning. My daughter likes to play Uno. She likes to keep the score and of course she feels disappointed when she has tried hard to win and does not. In this scenario I use a “redirection technique”. I re-direct her focus on the fact we had fun together and that we can play again another day rather than on the fact she lost.

As children grow older they will be exposed to more and more competition. It is important that we teach our children to learn to “bounce back” from losses, to experience loss in a positive way and to keep on going even when they don’t achieve the desired outcome.

Teach children that not everything is a competition. Teach the importance of team work and working together to achieve.

We can teach our children to work together as a team to set goals and participate in activities which bring us together as a team. A good example can be found in recycling. As a family we collect our waste paper in a bucket and weigh it at the end of the week. We put the results on a chart and then pop it in the recycling bin. This is a fun activity which promotes working together as a team rather than working against each other to see who can collect the most paper.

Teaching our children to work together is an important principle. We could use co-operative games or create activities in the home. Most importantly we can lead by example. Rather than competing against one another my husband and I try to work together to achieve our goals and we demonstrate this to our child. We set family goals and celebrate with joint rewards.

By teaching children now to be resilient, we can prepare them for adult life in the future. Our children can learn to compete for fun and learn how to bounce back from life’s failures and disappointments.

We can talk to our children about competition. We can teach by example and show our kids that losing a game or failing a test is not the end all and be all. Losing is simply a chance to try again and a chance to become more successful.

I believe that parenting is the most important role in life. Raising emotionally healthy children in so very important for the future generation and by teaching our children the above principles we can help them to navigate the obstacles of life and they will learn to compete in healthy ways throughout their lives.

Angela Milnes



  1. Ang this post is brilliant – I completely agree with everything you say. Its so important to teach kids about differences and know it doesn’t make them have less value because they’re not as good as someone else at something x

    1. Thanks Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed this. It’s the little things we teach our children that count. Sylvia really struggled with this but now she has grasped it, her whole perspective has changed for the better!- Ang xxx

    1. Thankyou. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. There are so many lessons to be taught and learnt buy both the parent and the teacher! It’s a tricky one. Thanks for dropping by. Angela xx

  2. It is tricky as we always want our kids to be happy and we often associate happiness with winning, but I’m with you here teaching them to lose and lose with grace is equally important. There are some great tips here, thanks for sharing them.

  3. I know I really struggled as a child and I can see my oldest is so competitive too – hates losing. It is a difficult one isn’t it as you don’t want to be too harsh and put them off trying altogether! x

    1. I think I must be a little competitive too…I think it’s more with myself than against others though…and I’m a huge fan of self improvement. Angela xx

  4. Very true. Not encouraging children at other’s expense is another one. My daughter has swimming lessons at the same time as some of the competitive swimmers. I’ve lost count of the number of parents I hear bad-mouthing other kids.

    1. That is really sad! I’ve not come across that one yet and hopefully I wont. My daughter does not do competetive sports yet as she was not interested when we gave her the option but that’s really sad…the poor kids!


    2. That is really sad! I’ve not come across that one yet and hopefully I wont. My daughter does not do competative sports yet as she was not interested when we gave her the option but that’s really sad…the poor kids!


  5. I absolutely agree!!! Losing with grace is a skill kids need to acquired. I think it should be practiced regularly so they can master it. In life sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. When we lose we go back up to bat and give it another swing. I hate that many sports teams don’t keep score (but the kids do on their own). I think its something they should be experiencing, so when a major loss hits them in life, it doesn’t come as a total shock. Thank you for sharing. #happyquacks

    1. I totally agree. We have to learn to take the losses with the wins! It’s part of growing up and will totally help our children in the future!
      Angela x

  6. I think it’s great to teach them to play fair and to accept defeat honorably but when it comes to competing, winning is what it’s all about. Otherwise there wouldn’t be competitions. There are winners and losers in life and while we are all different, if you set out to compete in “x” — by definition, the goal is to win.

    I love the message you’re trying to instill, but there is a fine line between teaching that it’s ok to accept defeat and settling for second place because “it’s ok.”

    I think it’s better to teach (one of the things you mentioned) that if you want to win, you have to try harder.

    1. Thanks Oscar for your comments and thoughts. Yes it is important to teach kids to try harder and the aim is to win, however there does need to be a balance between winning and losing, but I guess it depends on what the subject/game/competition is. I would be more concerned about my child failing an exam than losing a netball match or a game of monopoly. I guess the principle or message I was trying to teach is that it’s okay to not be perfect at everything. We all have strengths and weaknesses but the harder we try the greater chance of being successful! Angela x

  7. Such a great post full of fab advice. Zach is only two but when we play one of his games, I always make sure that he doesn’t always win – it’s important that they learn early on because we don’t always go through life winning. Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    1. Thanks Lisa. Your totally right. It is important to these these things early on. I think with being unwell, somethings I’m teaching a little later than planned but hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles! Thanks for visiting Angela x

  8. Great post!! In a world where winning appears to be everything, it’s so important to teach our children how to lose graceful. Thanks for linking up to #happyquacks x

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