Kids Should Be Losers. And That's Okay.

Caught your attention, huh?  Before I go any further, I must warn you.  This is one of those "read before you preach" posts.  Just hear me out.  And this post could be long,  Long but good.  There's so much good stuff here, folks.  This post has been brewing in my mind for just over a year.  You see, throughout my life as a mom and teacher, I've noticed an alarming trend in the way we treat our children.  Put your "perspectacles" on and see if you can see what I see...

Last year, I stood at a birthday party one of my children was attending.  I had enjoyed my two hours of freedom (a.k.a. grocery shopping) while my sweet little cherub partied away at an expensive party venue.  One I'd never pay for but hey, I'm glad my kid got to enjoy it.   I arrived about 20 minutes before the scheduled pick up time so I headed inside to check out the commotion.  Being a teacher, some times it's fun to step inside a land of kid craziness and just sit back and watch - not clap my hands for attention or sing a cute little ditty for all eyes on me.  I watch the chaos and be thankful I'm not on duty.  I just get to stand back and watch the rookies live in my world.  And I chuckle.  A lot.

I walked over to the party group where they were just beginning a birthday relay race.  A few other moms were there.  Many of them I did not know and a few of them I did.  There were two young female staff members leading the party.  They gave simple directions on how the relay was to be completed and soon enough the group was divided up into teams and the relay began.  The kids were having a riot running back and forth with spoons in their mouths balancing marshmallows (**gasp*** running with spoons?!  I should have taken my kid out of there right then!  Nah. Who are we kidding?  I had 20 more minutes of freedom.)

The races came to an end as team #3 finished before the rest.  I heard cheers of excitement from the winning team and sighs of disappointment from the others. And then, I heard what I heard and saw what I saw.  Loud sighs and grunts, followed by a few muffled outbursts as one child expressed his disappointment in being a "loser".  As if that wasn't enough to ruffle my feathers, I then heard his mother.  "Oh honey, it's okay.  You are a winner.  Everyone is a winner.  There are no losers." The boy then went and grabbed his goody bag and stormed out the door.  (Ahhh, goody bags.  I just don't understand goody bags.  Another hot topic for another blog post, I suppose.)

Are you feelin' me yet?  Do you get it?  I'm thinking some of you do....and some of you don't.  I'll carry on.

At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to yell across the room, "No!  You are wrong!  Your kid is a loser!  And that's okay!"  I feel really strongly about this, people.  Kids have to experience both winning AND losing.  Kids learn more from losing than they do from winning.  Yet, as parents we are falsely awarding our child with victories every single day.

Why do we do this?  Why do we give trophies to every youth sports team despite how well they played?  Why do dangle prizes and rewards over their heads to recognize behaviors that they should be exhibiting because they are the right thing to do not because they'll get a prize?  Why do we lift these tiny human beings up on a pedestal so high they can't even remember what the ground looks like?

As a teacher, I see the repercussions of this every day.  I see kids who throw total fits over losing games in gym class, and kids who cry their way through field day because gosh darnit, the girls beat the boys at tug of war!  Talk about a reality check.   I see kids who argue over lost points on a test or quiz and then beg for a retake, even though their answers were wrong in the first place.  And then I see their parents argue for them.  Over a few points.  Likely an **embarrassing** 97%.  But that's not perfect, therefore they are not winners.  They are losers.  If only they knew that was #winning.

What do those kids learn whose parents go in and fight for their extra points?  They learn that mom and dad will do anything to make their wrongs right.  What do those kids learn who are always told they are winners and are allowed to throw tantrums when they lose?  They learn that their poor behavior is okay and that no matter their choices, mom and dad will still think they are perfect.  What do the kids learn who are always handed a trophy or an award after every sporting event they complete?  It teaches them that effort doesn't matter.  It teaches them that they could basically sit in the middle of the soccer field during the game and they'd still get the reward.

This is dangerous territory, folks.  I'm serious.

What do the kids learn who get a 97% on a test and don't try to find a way to turn it into a 100%?  They learn to go over the wrong answers and DISCOVER the right answer.  It makes them research and learn deeper than they did before the test.  What do the kids learn who get a 58% on a test because they stayed up too late the night before and chose not to study?  Hopefully they learn that they could do better next time if they study and get to bed at a decent time.  They will learn nothing if their parents walk in to the school and argue for a retake.   What do the kids learn who lose the student council election?  They learn to fall down and get back up.  They learn to hold their head high and carry on.  They learn how to deal with not getting into their favorite colleges.  They learn how to deal with jobs they interview for but do not get. They learn life skills.  They learn to live.

I'm far from perfect.  I have parenting flaws for sure.  Some days, more than I'd like to count.  But my husband and I have tried our best to keep our kids grounded and off that high pedestal.  You see, if we raise them up so high and they fall, they will have no clue how to get back up.  And they will never be happy until they get even higher than they were before. So guess what?  When I play board games with my kids, I do not let them win on purpose.  However, some times they win because they are truly smarter than me at that game.   Truly.  It happens.  When my kids bring home tests with wrong answers, we go over them.  We don't find reasons why they shouldn't be wrong.  When they are upset that they didn't do well on a spelling test, we keep practicing the words they got wrong.  I won't ask for a retake or for the teacher to look really closely at their messy handwriting because you know, some times their imperfectly perfect handwriting is just hard to read.  When my daughter tells me about how there was drama in her little group of BFFs, I start by asking what HER behaviors were and not others.  Because I can't change or guide the behaviors of the other girls but I can hers.

So let's do ourselves and our kids a favor.  Let's let them lose.  Let's celebrate true winnings and let's learn from the losses.  Let's let them live in a world where losses are just as important as winnings.  Let's agree that losing is okay.  Because it is.


  1. Beautifully said! All parents should read and take this to heart!

  2. Yes, yes, YES!! I am loving all of your writing, Carrie, and you are spot on with this! So good for parents to read!