Young Kids and Competition

Posted May 13, 2011 by

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Lately, it’s been all about competition in our house. E likes to play board games but he expects to win each time. If he does win, he makes fun of the person who lost. (“Ha ha, I win, you lose!”) If he doesn’t win, he cries about it. I’ve taken it upon myself to teach him about healthy competition and how it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, as long as you’re nice about it.

Last year, I would motivate E to get dressed in the morning by allowing whoever got ready first to pick out the TV show they were both going to watch before school. While I was helping M (because he was only one year old at the time), E would rush to get ready in the meantime. He “won” most of the time, but there were days where he’d play around in his room and M would be done first. On those days, he’d have a tantrum because he lost. I explained to him that sometimes M gets to win too, and that he should congratulate M on doing a good job.

Apparently, this hasn’t sunk in yet. E is still older, wiser and faster than M, and he also understands how to play games better than M does. Still, he gets so upset whenever M wins, even if it’s only once in a while. I’m hoping that he’ll learn how to be a good sport over time and I know that it will only come from adult role models emphasizing the point repeatedly. I also hope that poor sportsmanship doesn’t rub off on M so that we don’t go through the same routine when he decides to compete with his future younger sibling.

Any suggestions for teaching good sportsmanship would be welcome at this time.


Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.

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  1. AJ Report

    It seems to me that the problem may lie within E learning when competing is appropriate. If E already has an issue with winning and losing. Why make it worse by turning everyday tasks (like getting dressed) into a competition?
    Competition is an unavoidable part of life. However, learning how and when to compete are the keys. Competition is what very often brings out the best in us – unfortunately it can bring out the worst in us. I have four kids and I try to teach them to do your best and try to win. If you happen to lose, you have to learn how to accept it. You don’t have to like it – just accept it for the moment. Try to learn from it – You will get another chance.
    Try to keep competition in it’s place. Sports, academics, jobs, etc. will offer plenty of opportunity to compete.
    When we play family games it is friendly competition. They all try to win yet in a fun way rather than an “in your face way.” For our family, perspective is the key.
    Good luck to you.

  2. Brittany Roshelle Report

    What a hard topic not only for children but even adults too! I think what you’re doing is great, it just takes time! Everyone loves to win 🙂

  3. Shadra Report

    What you’re going through with your kids right now completely resonates with me!! My son is 11 and is competitive even with himself. It does get better, though – it’s about being consistent with your message, which it sounds like you are doing. When our son’s behavior gets too out of control (whether winning or losing) we do two things: 1, we teach him the appropriate way to respond and have him practice it and 2, we stop playing.

    He is learning that his behavior determines whether or not we get to have any fun playing games and doing things and it’s making a difference. Sometimes it takes him a minute to pull it together, but he is doing it.

    Hang in there, and good luck!



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