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How to teach a child to be a 'good loser'

A boy sitting on a ball looking sad.

A boy sitting on a ball looking sad. (Credit: iStock)

As a new season of sports begins, it’s no better a time than now to remind kids of what it means to be a good loser. Here are six tips from Jude Bijou, a California-based psychotherapist who wrote the 2011 book “Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life” (Riviera, $16.95):

1 Encourage your child to express disappointment. “But in a safe and private place,” says Bijou. That means explaining that when he loses that he can have a tantrum on his own. “He can punch a punching bag at home in the basement and yell at the top of his lungs, ‘I feel so angry!’ He’ll feel relieved after he lets all that emotional energy out, and much better than if he took out his frustration and rage on someone else,” she says.

2. Help your child focus on joy. “Running in a race on a beautiful day, feeling healthy and alive, should be fun,” she says. “Remind your child that the activity she loves is fun, and that she can put less emphasis on winning.” The hope is that when she gets into that mindset that she can focus on doing her best. “No matter how disappointing the outcome, she'll have had joyous moments and great memories leading up to it,” she adds.

3. Teach your child to do his or her best. “Resilient people — those who bounce back easily from disappointments and setbacks — aren't wedded to the outcome,” Bijou says. “Don't let your child set himself up for disappointment with the expectation that he'll win.” The goal should be giving something “maximum effort” — with winning as a reward for work done.

4. Assist your child in looking for a benefit in losing. “Ask her, ‘What did you learn?’ Most competitive kids can come up with an answer that's helpful,” Bijou says. “There's always a win for your child personally, whether it's honing her skills, learning something about her technique, or figuring out a different and better strategy for next time.”

5. Encourage self-worth, even after losing. “If he's having a particularly difficult time letting go of negative feelings, have him repeat over and over to himself, ‘I gave it my best shot. I did well to get as far as I did,’” she says.

6. Point out that it’s important to help others celebrate. “Remind her that if she won, she'd want and expect others to congratulate her too,” she explains.

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