How I taught my son the importance of losing

You can’t always win. You don’t always have to win. Oftentimes losing is so much better for a person in terms of the precious life lessons he or she can derive from it.

Failing gives you a different perspective on things.

Going through a million and one failures is all part of life. It shapes your character. Helps you accept that you are human, destined to make mistakes meant to fail and lose at times, many many times and then come out a better and much tougher person.

Our strength of character is defined by our ability to bounce back, crawl back up even from the lowest point in our lives.

This is something we have to help our children understand. The value and need to fail many many times first before they can win.

Who knew I would have the chance to teach my little boy this using a HotWheels game in his Ipad.

About a year ago I found my son thrashing his iPad (thank God it was protected by a rubber case). I sat down beside him, hugged him to calm him down, and then asked what’s wrong.

“I keep losing Mama,” he exclaimed rubbing his eyes. He was obviously very irritated and disappointed.

“I’m so bad at this game. I want to win but it’s so hard,” he explained.

I gave him a kiss on his forehead and told him to just try again.

After a few tries he got even more upset and started crying.

So I launched my whole talk about failure. I had to explain to him that losing is good because only through it can we become better and then eventually after losing many many times we become the best.

“But I want to always win Mama!” he blurted out. “I want to always be the best!Because I want to get a trophy a nice trophy!” he insisted.

He must have heard it from his classmates and peers. And to be honest I got a little worried because I thought he was starting to get conditioned into such a competitive world. One where a person’s value depends solely on the number of awards, achievements, recognition, wealth, and ultimately, power he can amass in his lifetime.

Our whole discussion revolved around me explaining the value of losing, and failing and trying again and again until he wins.

I had to explain to him that winning takes time and to be the best he needs a lot of practice and a willingness to try and try again.

It took awhile for him to take this in. To undo whatever influence the world has had on him about winning and wanting to always be the best.

That first long conversation was followed by many more. Of me reinforcing the value of losing and failing. Of the need to learn lessons from losing. Of being patient enough to try many many times.

For a year we applied this to his school work too. Every time he’d get frustrated with one or two mistakes in an exam I’d sit him down and help him understand what he did wrong and how we can fix it so he can get a better score next time.

Each night I would tell him I love him and I will love him no matter what happens. I’d talk to him before sleepy time and tell him that no matter what happens even if he fails, or loses, or is not the best even if he doesn’t get an award I will love him to the moon and back.

I wanted him to know that I will always have his back. And than when he fails I’ll be there to welcome him with a hug and a nice bowl of soup to make him feel better.

Fast forward to yesterday I was having a bad parenting day. I was tired, tapped out, and overwhelmed until I overheard my son talking to a friend.

“Hey it’s okay to lose sometimes. Losing helps you learn so you can be better. And then you try again and again. You have to be patient! That’s how you become the best you have to lose many many times first”.

It made my day. Heck it made my week, my year! I was exhausted but I realized all these things we do for our children, the time we spend talking to them, they’re all worth it.

It’s amazing how they tend to absorb the things we teach. It might have taken a year of conversations for him to remember this one lesson but hearing him share this with another person is so worth it.

I’m looking forward to teaching him more life lessons just like this one. Even if it’d take awhile and a dozen conversations for him to fully understand it.

Author: Loraine Balita-Centeno

I'm a Manila based journalist who's been working in the industry for 12 years. I've written pieces for newspapers and magazines based in Manila and some abroad. I'm a work-at-home-mom of two so I spend my days writing or editing with a toddler clamped around one leg and a pre-schooler asking me questions every 10 minutes.

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