26 answers

Sore Loser Syndrome :)

I could really use some help figuring out where developmentally my son should be with this issue of crying during every and all games engaged in with family members. If something doesn't go his way or he sees some component of the game that he doesn't think is fair, he completely melts down. If he doesn't win, he melts down. If he doesn't think he's going to win he melts down. My daughter is completely different stage/age, but I worry about how his demonstrations of poor sportsmanship will/may/do have an affect on her outlook/behavior. HOW do I teach him to deal with sportsmanship? My husband and I, we recently noticed, have really shied away from playing family games because of what a nightmare it becomes dealing with our sons outbursts and meltdowns. We don't do the "fake winning" (haven't ever) but now, I'm wondering if that was a mistake. Today, to give an example, we were outside spending time in the backyard and decided to have some running races. They raced around the house and of course my five year old son was entirely faster than my two year old daughter. Next race, I encouraged him to give her a head start... let the tantrums begin. I then demonstrated how bigger people have an advantage over little people: all three of us raced to a tree. He melted down because I won. I went on to explain that because I'm bigger I'll win. Would he like a head start if he raced me? Yes, he replied...so I tried to explain how the same would be fair when he and his sister race. So, they raced again. Melt down again, and again, and again. I tried to reason with him and the whole ordeal became all about him, which is not healthy for his sister to always experience the focus on him. This fun little time outside turned into a big crying mess. My daughter kept a great outlook, but she finally gave up as she to was tired of his antics. This is just one example... be it CandyLand or Green Eggs & Ham it always turns into crying. My husband joke, "we're not having fun until someone starts cryin'!" (Of course that is just between my husband and I - the children have never heard us say that.) Even when it comes to taking turns throwing a ball or who gets to go first... And it isn't a stage, as he's been like this since he was old enough to engage in games and turns. Obviously, I have dropped the ball (no pun intended!) on this parenting issue. I probably have never responded in a way that would curb the unwanted behavior. But, I honestly just don't know how to parent this! I am at a loss and what's worse, is this crying just grates on my nerves. My husband and I competed in various activities all throughout child hood and good sportsmanship is so important to us. So internally, this just pushes my buttons and I don't stay even keeled about it. More or less, it just makes my blood boil and we eventually give up the game and play because we just can seem to get the desired response out of our son. Not fair to our daughter or a good example to her. Also, I don't notice that other kids his age have a huge problem with this. He is in tball and has only had one melt down there. He is in preschool. He has play dates- seems like he just melts down with us, so obviously it's our parenting that is the problem! PLEASE help!!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

B., Although most children learn early on that playing the game is more important than actually winning it some children take a lot longer to do this.
Not playing the let him win game is a fine example to set.When my children were younger the one with the poor loser attitude was not allowed to play for a few times; we gave him a coloring book or something else to occupy him; and told him he could not play the family game because he did not understand that losing is part of playing. After a few game night misses his behavior changed dramatically and we then had a much better behaved son who is now a wonderful grown man. He also was my card game partner when we taught them to play more adult games. He is the Monopoly champ of the family now and can not be beat. LOL.
Good Luck

2 moms found this helpful

My nephew used to get really upset when playing games. We just said "Oh dear, if playing this game is going to make you that upset, then we/you just shouldn't play. I don't want it to upset you." maybe if he sees that he can't play it will help him control himself.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Love the advice by Dawn B. John Rosemond is a wonderful man and is not one of those psychologist/authors that minces words and plays into the child's behavior by "validating his feelings". Read one of his books and it will change you life. Anyway, what I would do is this: I would race him and let him win and then start having a temper tantrum exactly like he has. Play a game and let him win and have a temper tantrum. Show him how annoying it is to play with him. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

You've gotten some really good advice, especially that concerning immediate consequences and continuing the game without him. I honed in on a couple of your sentences that can be the key. You said he doesn't do this at playdates and only melted down once at tball. This tells you that something about the situation at home is different. You need to identify what is different and focus the change there. Are you and your husband putting too much pressure on him? You said you don't believe in "letting" someone win but then ask him to "let" his sister win the race. This is a mixed message that he is likely to internalize that it's about him. It's confusing and does reinforce "unfairness". Do you ever just play games with him or is his sister always included? Do you protect her but expect him to follow the rules? Just some things to think about.

L. D.

2 moms found this helpful

I remember going through this with my son. Here is one thing I tried: First, I had a chat with him at a calm time (in the car, or before evening story time). I used some of the techniques in "Talking So Kids Will Listen, Listening So Kids Will Talk." It goes something like this: "I noticed you are really happy when you win a game. Tell me what it feels like when you win." "I noticed you are very unhappy when you lose a game. Tell me what it feels like when you lose." Validate his feelings. Help him name his feelings (Anger, disappointment) "When you feel unhappy about losing, what can you do?" Talk him through other ways he can behave when he loses a game. At another time, you can talk about the how other people feel the same way. How do other people react when they lose a game?

Finally, explain to him that when he reacts by having a meltdown, other people feel sad and don't want to play any more. You want him to play the games with you, but he has to be prepared to win or lose. BEFORE you start the game (even a little while before game - like 30 minutes), prepare him for the fact that you all want to play a game. He can decide to join in or not, but if he joins in he has to be prepared to win or lose. Set up a 'trial' game, so that he can make that decision. You could also set up a chart, so that he can see that sometimes he wins and sometimes other people win.

Ask your librarian to recommend books dealing with this topic. The Bernstein Bears often have good stories dealing with "kid" topics.

Good Luck! This too will pass!

2 moms found this helpful

Hi B.,

Do you know of a columnist/doctor named John Rosemond? I used to read his column when it was in our local newspaper, and I remember him talking about something concerning his own daughter. He said that she would go to friends' houses and come home early crying because something that happened in their play upset her. What he said that he and his wife instituted was when she did this, they would tell her that she must be "tired" and send her to her room to have to rest. That way she didn't get to keep going on and on with her "pity party" (that's my term, not his) and it taught her that she wouldn't get to be with anyone if she came home crying about a playdate. I remember that he said the last time she did it, she came out of her room in a few minutes and announced that she was going to go back over to her friend's house and work things out.

I wonder if this would be good to do for your son. I wouldn't go through trying to reason with him during a meltdown. Sometimes a bunch of talking just excelerates a meltdown. Before the activity, each and every time, tell him he will have to go to his room to get ahold of himself and stay there (decide on a set amount of time, but he must not be crying anymore no matter how long it lasts) if he cannot act like everyone else doing the activity. It may take a long time for him to get over this, but I think you would make some progress better than giving him a lot of attention during all these meltdowns. And I'd make sure you handle it the same way everytime.

I had just a little of this with my older son, but only about about bowling, putt-putt, and ice skating. He was older than your son at the time. These activities were out in a public place, and it was really hard on our family. I elected to stop the putt-putt and ice skating for a few years because of it. What I did with bowling is to pair him WITH his brother, against me, so that they could both beat me. (They had bumpers, I didn't.) That helped. (However, I don't recommend that to you with your games and running around.) Your backyard games and board games are good ways for you to try to work on this issue, yet be able to send him to his room. Public humilation is so hard to deal with, which is why I waited for a long time for the putt-putt and skating when I realized he couldn't handle it.

Sending him to his room everytime is also a good way to show your daughter the inappropriateness of his actions. Continuing to play with her and ignoring him when he acts this way is healthier for your daughter, I think.

Hope this helps some.
D.

2 moms found this helpful

B., Although most children learn early on that playing the game is more important than actually winning it some children take a lot longer to do this.
Not playing the let him win game is a fine example to set.When my children were younger the one with the poor loser attitude was not allowed to play for a few times; we gave him a coloring book or something else to occupy him; and told him he could not play the family game because he did not understand that losing is part of playing. After a few game night misses his behavior changed dramatically and we then had a much better behaved son who is now a wonderful grown man. He also was my card game partner when we taught them to play more adult games. He is the Monopoly champ of the family now and can not be beat. LOL.
Good Luck

2 moms found this helpful

i have a bit of a different take on this. We just don't play competitive games at our house. There is plenty of competition out there, and my kids just didn't (and don't) fit the competitive model. One is very sensitive (perfectionist, highly empathetic, emotional), one is ADHD, and one would freeze even when it came to getting candy from a pinata! At age 5, competition is a really complex concept (especially with different skill levels). He may be overwhelmed, and thus the meltdowns. He has plenty of time to learn that concept.

I would go for more cooperative games or projects you can all participate in. Play down the competition for a while (or forever).

One of the things that is so hard for me to learn (but is presented to me over and over) is that our kids are unique and may not have our temperment, skills, or interests. It is up to us to help them discover theirs and to use them productively and wisely. (I was a competitive athlete all my life, and none of my three follow in my tracks...I SO miss the teams, sports events, and the learning from them, but it is their lives, not mine.)

My best to you and your son,
H.

2 moms found this helpful

Hey B.!

You don't say how old your son is, so I can't say whether this is typical;

I can, however, recommend some great books that my daughter loves. they are "Help me be good" books by Joy Berry. They are fun with real messages, and one in particular is called "Not being a Bad Sport", or something to that effect.

Just be patient; don't bend the rules because he cries, and hang in there!

Hope this helps.

J.

2 moms found this helpful

I feel your pain. My 5 year old boy does the same thing and I find it very frustrating! And, don't beat yourself up on the parenting issue...kids are at their worst with people they feel safe around. Consider it some demented form of flattery. :-)

I DO think competition is a good thing. While I also love opportunities for cooperative play, learning to lose gracefully is one of the best traits we can teach our kids, so kudos to you and your husband!

What we do at my house is that if my son starts the 'Sore Loser Meltdown', I/we remove him from the game IMMEDIATELY. I do not entertain that behavior or react emotionally...he is told if he is going to be a sore loser, then he has to do it in his room (timeout). If we are at someone elses house, he has to go to an appropriate timeout place. I don't make him stay long, but he is not able to participate until he is back to 'normal' and when he leaves the timeout area, I emphasize my expectations of him again. I have seen some of this curb in the last few months.

Keep up the good work and don't let yourself get too down about it.

2 moms found this helpful

Don't be so hard on yourself. Each kid is going to be different. Some are just naturally more competitive than others. That does not mean that he can not learn good sportsmanship, just don't get bogged down with comparisons. If you think you have to fix the problem, then you are going to get stressed. Fortunately, the mommy job is not to make the kids smile all day. My third son is a sore loser. The first two would cause envy in other parents because of their level of honest good sportsmanship, but then came number three. He hates losing and really loses it even if it seems like he might lose. Our plan has been to just let him learn to deal with losing. Having older brothers helps with the many needed opportunities to lose. We set limits on how he can display his anger, but we allow him to be angry. often times we have had him sit in his room till he is ready to rejoin the group without the anger. The hard part is not being moved by his anger. If he sees that the anger is not going to produce the results that he is looking for, he will back off. Life provides all the needed training, all you have to do is just let it, and not let it get under your skin. Remember that the anger is just the natural part of him learning, then you will welcome opportunities for him to lose, and lose his temper. By the way, good job, on being honest and not letting him fake win. If you had done the fake win approach, the problem would very likely be much worse. He can only learn to deal with disappointments in the midst of disappointment. When we have family prayer we pray about this with Andrew so that he will see that God will help him deal with lives disappointments. We also take that time to pray about issues that we each are working on. It makes him feel better to know that we are all working on something, and becoming better people. Praise the competitive spirit, but caution him against being a poor sport. Have fun, J. M

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