Aunty Aidan: On Supporting Sportsmanship

Dear Aunty Aidan,

While playing board and card games with my 9 year old, I discovered that he doesn’t like to lose. Whoa!

Witnessing the Agony of Defeat

Dear Witness,

No one likes to lose and it is developmentally appropriate for your son to suffer so intensely. Losing feels unexpected and is frustrating to his (again appropriate) fantasized sense of infallibility and overinflated perception of competence. Redefine winning as having fun, playing by the rules and learning strategies.

Competitive games are opportunities to learn to navigate friendships, collaborate as teammates and to show respect for opponents. Always remember to affirm his feelings of failure and to direct his behaviors by whatever actions are modeled as acceptable in your family. Use the conduct of professionals as an opportunity for further discussion. End every game with a handshake, a “good game, that was fun!” and a pledge to play again.

It is in the practice of losing (and winning) with grace that you will help him witness that defeat doesn’t have to be so agonizing.

Aunty Aidan


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