Games are meant to be fun!
Well if that’s true, why is Jessie crying? Not loud bawling type crying but just wiping away a few fallen tears.
And then there’s Sam, who’s got his arms crossed, looking just a little upset and about to launch himself on Tynan who just won the game.
Who said games were great for spiral review, that they provide motivation to learn and ensure full engagement?
If they saw Jessie and Sam they would take those words back!
How Can We Fix This?
What do we do with the kids that don’t manage with losing?
Games are fun and they are great for reviewing concepts and yes they are very motivating and we definitely don’t want to put them aside because we don’t want to deal with the fallout from the child who hates to lose.
Visuals can help children cope with losing a game
With the right preparation, we can help our kids cope with losing a game and a visual is a perfect tool for teaching that very important social skill of accepting that you are not winning or that you’ve lost the game.
But don’t expect to just hold it up and hope for the best. Teaching children to cope with losing is a whole lesson in itself (sometimes two).
I use this visual often. To introduce it I explore the negative thoughts associated with losing a game. Kids are great at suggesting these, after all, it’s what’s in their head. Together we change these negative thoughts into positive ones.
The visual can also be used to describe and model what good losing behavior looks like, sounds like and feels like.
If we tell the winner they played well, our voice shows we are happy for them. If we do a high five, it’s gentle. If we shake their hand, our hand is relaxed.
It’s important not to use the visual once and then forget it. If you have a child in your class who doesn’t manage with losing, keep the visual handy and near the center he or she is working on. It’s easy to quickly refer to it when you notice that things might not be going well.
“Jessie, you could think, it’s just a game and maybe I’ll win next time.”
“Oh well, never mind Sam, it’s just a game. Everyone needs a turn at winning and today Tynan won.”
Talking about how their friends might feel when they show both inappropriate and appropriate responses to losing is also important for developing some perspective taking.
If you have a child in your class who doesn’t manage losing don’t avoid playing games with them. Giving them the opportunity to practice skills is important, however, you might like to consider how you do it and always offer a break if you notice things are not going well. When a child is able to take a break before the game is upturned it’s definitely a win in my books!