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We've all been there. If your preschooler is having a tantrum because he lost a game of Chutes and Ladders, you shouldn't necessarily let him claim victory next time. While it's fine to let your child win occasionally, there are valuable lessons to be learned from losing, including how to bounce back from failure or rejection. If your child starts getting upset after he loses, put the game away and calmly say, "That's not how we act when we lose. We'll try playing this again another time." Children learn most about losing by the way their parents handle it. When you lose, try saying something like, "I'm a little sad that I lost, but I'll try again next time." The message is: It's okay to feel bad, but there are good ways to express those feelings. Don't make everything about winning. Instead, compliment your child on how he played a game, and when you watch sports together, praise opposing players if they deserve it. You can also help your child learn from his mistakes as he begins to play games that require strategy. Say things like, "Remember when you played tic-tac-toe and Dad took the corners? You take those spaces next time and see what happens." By age 5 or 6 your child will have probably outgrown most of his sore-loser tendencies. Of course, there will be setbacks, but this is the age when kids should be learning to cooperate better with others. --Sandra Y. Lee
Copyright 2003. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2003 issue of Child magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.