Opinion

Losing to Learn

My eight-year-old brother plays soccer. Whenever he is practicing and playing at home, my dad always lets him win. When I try to join in on the game—and win, because I’m older and better than my brother—my dad admonishes me, telling me I need to stop beating him and let my brother have the victory. He says it’s better for his self-esteem. But I’m not so sure it is.

According to www.novakdjokovicfoundation.org, when children always ‘win’, they won’t know how to handle losing. “They [children] start seeing the possibility of not winning as some form of harm and they cannot deal with situations that do not go their way.” This means kids can experience anxiety or sinking self esteem when they lose because they may believe they have done something wrong or aren’t good enough to win.

When my little brother plays in soccer games, he isn’t as good of a sport as the other members of his team. If they lose, he thinks there must be a mistake, that the other team cheated, because how could he possibly lose, how could his team fall short? If they win, his excitement overflows, like most, but sometimes his elation curdles and he becomes boastful. I’m not trying to criticize my parents, yet sometimes with the baby of the family, rules can be passed over, blurred, or forgotten.

Children will never learn if they never lose. The reason why we play games isn’t about winning, losing, or the bragging rights in victory’s wake; we play to have fun. But winning and losing can teach lessons about and impact the world off the field. Good sportsmanship, how to handle yourself in competitive situations: these are learned by losing as much as winning. Additionally, kids will never appreciate the importance of practice and hard work if they always effortlessly snatch their victories from a silver platter. Whether they win or lose (and especially when they lose), children should have the opportunity to learn how to handle their lot with grace, practice strategies to improve their skills, and realize they tried their best, whatever the scoreboard says.

No one wins all the time, and if kids do, they will not know how to recover from a loss. If a child loses in games now, they will learn not only to lose with decorum as an adult, but also to win with tact. 

Sure, games are just games. But if you always allow a child win, you’re not doing them or their self-esteem a favor. Letting a child win may not seem to be the worst thing in the world, but in the long run, fabricated victories can erode kid’s effort, damage their self-esteem, and destroy their good sportsmanship.

4 comments

  1. I agree that there has to be a healthy balance between winning and losing. I know it’s kind of opposite to what this article is about, but i know a person who claims to lose about 99% of the time. Sure they cherishes the wins, but they feel like a failure most of the time. I’ve even heard them say to themselves that they’d failed everyone just because they lost something. I hope one day this person can find a balance between winning and losing someday.

    1. I hope the same thing! In addition to not letting kids win every time, (so that they develop the right skills and sportsmanship) I feel like it is too much to let them lose every time, and especially to ridicule them when they lose, because then their self-esteem will be shattered, just like the person you are speaking about. I hope this person can realize they aren’t a failure!

  2. Wow, this is very well written. You’re such a good writer! My football coach always says that we are “Winning and we are learning!”. Again, well done!

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