In raising my boys, I’ve had to come to terms with their competitive nature. It doesn’t mean that I happily embrace it every day, but it helps me not get so mad at them for being who they are. They love to compete in sports, academics and above all else, they love to compete against each other. Unfortunately, this competitive passion means they both hate to lose. I can’t tell you how many times I attempted to play a game or sport with them and it ended in tantrums and tears (namely, my own). Just last night, after experiencing another crushing loss in soccer, my eight-year old declared that he was announcing his soccer retirement after this season was over.
Since I know I am never going to change who they are, I can only try to guide them through the pitfalls of handling a loss or failure. Keeping this in mind, it is helpful to talk to them about real-life successful athletes and how they handle losing. I find that books are another way to help start a conversation or teach a life lesson.
“Mia Hamm is a former American soccer player who competed with the U.S. women’s soccer team for 17 years. She won the Women’s World Cup in 1991 and 1999, and took Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004” (biography.com). She has written a great children’s book that I have used with both my boys called “Winners Never Quit“. Being a passionate competitor herself, she recounts playing soccer as a kid and giving up immediately if she didn’t score a goal. Eventually, she learned that playing was more important to her than performing perfectly. This served her well as she learned to lose with grace and become a supportive team player.
Of course, reading this book with my boys won’t change who they are overnight. In fact, as of this morning, my eight-year old is still firmly convinced of his ‘retirement’. A book like this does help me lay the foundation for important concepts and allow for a dialogue as we discuss the story. This in turn will help prepare my boys to learn the lesson of losing gracefully when they are ready.
Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent
Mia Hamm. (2015) The Biography.com website. Retrieved, 12:12, April 15, from http://www.biography.com/people/mia-hamm-16472547
Hamm, M. (2004) Winners Never Quit. New York, New York. Byron Preiss Visual Publications, Inc.