By Mary Teresa Bitti
Dan Burgin spends a lot of time at ice rinks. The Midland, Ont., father of two boys is a hockey dad. Both his boys, Joel, 16, and Max, 12, have played the sport since they were young. And they are both very competitive. Sometimes, that spirit has made losing particularly tough.
“Losing is still an issue for my younger son,” says Burgin. “He’s the goaltender and so he can see a lot of the play and tends to pick apart games they’ve lost, assigning blame. It might be someone on the opposing team he says played dirty, bad calls — it’s hard for him to accept that he can’t always win.”
And that is exactly the lesson parents need to impart to their kids — the sooner, the better. In fact, Julie Freedman Smith, co-owner of Parenting Power, a family resource and education company in Calgary, suggests that ages six through eight are a great time to focus on this life lesson because they’ve started school and are likely involved in sports and competing. “They are starting to take notice of their strengths and weaknesses and those of their friends,” says Freedman Smith. “If they are a sore loser, it will have an impact on what their friends think of them as well.”
Longer term, dealing with disappointment is a fact of life. “We are going to lose out on jobs, lose parents, deal with divorce — adversity is a fact of life, and, as parents, it’s our job to teach our kids the strategies that will help see them through life’s challenges and help them move forward,” says Freedman Smith.
Mary Teresa Bitti is a freelance writer and mom of two blessedly uncompetitive children.