My soon to be 6 year old is a sore loser. I often find myself rigging a game so he wins just so I don't have to deal with the meltdown. He will scream that the game isn't fair, or someone cheated, and then cry and hit.

I try modeling the correct behavior, by congratulating the winner, but that isn't enough. This past weekend, while at my Grandpa's house, we played card games, and he didn't get upset as he was losing, and I made a point to tell him I was proud of him for that. But I can't remember another time he hasn't been upset about losing.

Are there any other strategies I could be using? Is this something he just has to grow out of?

asked 13 Oct '09, 16:27

BryanG's gravatar image

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The behavior (and his age) suggest that this isn't something he'll grow out of. I have a daughter the same age who was a sore loser and it took a lot of work to get her out of that mindset. She never hit people because she lost but she did burst into tears and would refuse to play games that she knew she couldn't easily win.

With my daughter, we had to make her understand that she couldn't be the best at everything. We explained that sometimes she won, sometimes her sisters won, and sometimes her parents win. We encouraged her to play games that she'd never played before and told her that it was okay if she lost. We also pointed out how each time she played (or practiced) she got better.

Cumulatively and over time, winning has become less important to her. Just yesterday I beat her at Trouble and she even said "good game." It was a lot of work but like much of parenting the end result was worth it.


answered 13 Oct '09, 17:14

bbrown's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

Great answer! Gives me some hope (see my answer).

(23 Oct '09, 09:00) Paul Stephenson

When this happens we make it immediately clear that

  • This behavior is unacceptable
  • If they can't win or lose nicely then we won't play with them
  • They are expected to leave the room if they are too sad

This is not much different, from our point of view, than temper tantrums, whining, etc. We try to head these off at the pass (ie, if we see it becoming a problem during the game, such as them bragging about how well they are doing during the game, or moping about doing poorly) then we'll try to help them understand how to be polite and good game partners. We emphasize that games are things we do in order to have fun with each other, and the outcome of the game is really secondary to the enjoyment of simply being together.


answered 27 May '10, 16:29

Adam%20Davis's gravatar image

Adam Davis
accept rate: 31%

I was a very sore loser as a kid and a sore winner as well. When I am winning or losing at games still to this day this is what I think of:

One time when I was in mid-elementary school my dad and I were playing chess. When I was losing, I would mope and be on the verge of tears. When I was winning, I would be bouncing off the walls giddy and bragging. When I was moping, he said, "is this how you'd act if you were winning?" and when I was bragging he said, "is this how you'd act if you were losing?" Both made me mad as a kid and I don't remember if it changed my behavior then, but it is a lesson that I still vividly remember and apply decades later: accept our failures, as well as our successes, with quiet dignity and grace.


answered 23 Oct '09, 12:48

Dinah's gravatar image

accept rate: 15%

edited 27 Oct '09, 16:13

My eldest (10) tends towards being a very bad loser (and winner). We sometimes play chess together and I have never yet let him beat me. That just seems too much like lying to him, also when he does beat me I want him to know that it was because he deserved to win and not becuase I let him win. Both me and my wife have sometimes refused to have a second game of something against him because of his behaviour and we do tell him when his behaviour is not acceptable, although that normally makes it worse. He is however still improving so I can say that kids do continue to develop this skill and they are never(?) too old to grow out of it.

There was an episode of "Child of our Time" some years ago that looked at how this control over display of emotion is developed. From what I remember, young children actually lack sufficient brain development to exert control over display of emotion. It is only as their brain develops that the necessary skills become available. I wonder how much variance there is between children on developing this skill?


answered 27 May '10, 12:04

pipthegeek's gravatar image

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Our seven-year-old daughter is similar. I tend to prefer games of chance so that I can't be tempted to rig it. I would rather she experienced losing, and has the meltdown, than make her think that will always win, because when she plays with other children they certainly won't let her win all the time.

We haven't got it sorted yet though. The other day she had a game of Snakes and Ladders with the five-year-old, and I made a point of saying "It's OK if you lose, isn't it?" beforehand. She was absolutely fine with this, until the point at which her little sister was definitely going to win next turn, at which point the screaming started. Inside my head, I'm yelling, "It's a game of chance!" but there's no way to convince her that she's not entitled to win every time.

To be honest, we don't play that many board games now, which is a shame, because I loved them as a kid.


answered 23 Oct '09, 08:59

Paul%20Stephenson's gravatar image

Paul Stephenson
accept rate: 4%

My three year old is exactly the same way. We just had a marathon night of playing trouble. Out of six of the games we played, he won three, I won two, and his dad won one. He got to where he wasn't even happy to win one because he had lost the one before it. If we race bikes or play cards or do anything either he wins or he throws a temper tantrum. I have no idea what to do. I try to set a good example by congratulating the winner, telling him it's okay to lose, etc. but nothing is helping. I love playing board games but now I'm just scared of another meltdown. They start out fun and quickly go to "let's get this over with as soon as we can". Is this a phase? He's been like this since he first learned the concept of "winning" and "losing". I'm pulling my hair out on this one.


answered 27 May '10, 03:59

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Hi Brittany you can ask your own question but clicking the ask a question button in the upper right hand corner. People are unlikely to find your question this way.

(27 May '10, 11:00) Tammy ♦♦
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Asked: 13 Oct '09, 16:27

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Last updated: 27 May '10, 16:29