Leah Martin Dagher


How to Calm a Child Down After
Losing a Game

Losing a game is never a pleasant experience, especially for children. If a child needs support suddenly starts crying or throwing a tantrum, here are some handy tips to calm them down.

  1. Give the child time to collect themselves.

Kids get emotional over lots of things. When a child cries, it helps them express their emotions. You may respond calmly by asking simple questions such as “Hey, what happened in the game?”  Or “Sorry you didn’t win that one, want to review it?” The outburst of emotion usually subsides after a few minutes.  In fact, don’t be surprised to see that five minutes later a student is ready to set up the board again to prepare for the next round. 

  1. Offer encouraging words.

Once the child has calmed down, avoid falling into the trap of immediately coddling them. While it’s tempting, children must know that losing a game is not the end of the world, and the inevitable loss could turn into a win next time.

Some encouraging words could be:

  • “Understanding how you lost may take a while. How about we work together on that?”
  • “You did really well in the opening of the game. Maybe we need to look at the middle game.  Let’s take notes next time, alright?”
  • “It hurts to lose a game. How about we learn how to behave once we lose a game next time?”
  1. Become an example of a gracious loser.

In the next game, show your child what it’s like to be a dignified player.

  • Before the game starts, offer to shake hands and wish the opponent “Good luck.”
  • You can do this even if you’re not the one playing,
  • Make it clear that both are playing for fun and improvement.
  • When the opponent makes a clever move, show approval, or congratulate them.
  • If they make a move that might end badly, offer a chance for them to change their mind. (For example: “Don’t forget that pawns can capture diagonally. Would that help?”
  • Explain moves when you make them. This is an ongoing dialogue and practice technique which helps the child understand what kind of strategy you’re using. It also opens up the flow of strategic thinking which even the youngest players may begin to recognize.
  • Eventually, they might incorporate these strategies into their own.
  • Draw, win, or lose, finish with a handshake and congratulate them for a good match.

This important step teaches them how to control the emotional outbursts and accept wins and losses graciously.

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