Shortly after my husband and I met we began playing Scrabble together. I have a reasonably good vocabulary, but he wins the game nearly every time. Still, I love to play. It’s a good thing I don’t mind losing. My philosophy is that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.
Losing gracefully doesn’t come easy to everyone. I have no idea how I manage to do it. I quite literally have no emotional attachment to winning or losing. This is not to say that I do not have ridiculously high standards for myself, which I almost always fall short of. I just don’t need to win a race or beat someone at a board game. I can probably thank my mother for teaching my brother and me that “winning isn’t everything!” She didn’t let us win more than every few games or so when were young. I will be eternally grateful for this lesson, because it radiates into real life.
How do we impart this lesson to our children? I think it is important we raise our kids to accept losing gracefully. So many negative feelings can arise from losing, whether in a game, a job, or a relationship. Children are confronted with so many opportunities to “lose” as they navigate through childhood. Test scores, organized sports, and social acceptance are a few. Many adults put so much pressure on our children that they exhibit behaviors such as ADHD, stress, depression and behavioral issues. Of course, all of these things are not directly related to whether or not they are able to “lose gracefully,” but eliminating some of the pressure to “win” would surely have a positive effect on our children.
I do believe there is a place for competitiveness and striving to reach challenging goals; I simply wish to illuminate the difference between healthy and unhealthy desires to “win.” Several studies and books can be found on this subject, but this is just a blog, so I’ll leave you to research for yourself. Instead of putting so much pressure on our children to achieve, we could be guiding them while they pursue their interests at their own pace.