What NOT To Say To Your Child After Losing A Basketball Game

December 6, 2012 in Parenting

My three boys are all playing basketball this season (my favorite season of sports…see this post if you missed it). They are at various stages of competition – one at the high school level, one at the middle school level, and one who’s competing for the first time. What I’ve discovered, is that for all three of them, they don’t like to lose a game. No surprise there. It’s not that they cry or storm off, but they are usually a little bit down. I know that’s a perfectly normal reaction, but as a parent, my natural inclination is to try to make them feel better. I’ve now learned to let them wallow and do not under any circumstances try to boost their mood. Here are ten responses I have said after a game loss and have learned never, ever to say again:

  1. Great Game! That will only earn you dirty looks and possible yelling that it wasn’t a great game.  It was a terrible game, which they lost.
  2. You played your hardest and that’s what counts. No, according to your child, that is not what counts, especially when he had 2 fouls, 3 turnovers, and sat out the final period of the game.
  3. At least you had fun out there. No, he did not have fun because they lost and that sucks.
  4. You’ll get them next time. How do you know? There might not be a next time, not this season, and probably not ever.
  5. At least it was a close game. Who cares, we still lost.
  6. There were some bad calls in the game. Now you might get some support on this one. Kids love nothing better than to blame the refs, the coach, the other players. If we’re going to start faulting others for the loss, your kid will be all over that.
  7. Let’s go get some ice cream and forget about it. For some kids, this might work, but most will tell you they are not babies who think they can forget about the loss with a cone of chocolate chip cookie dough. Funny, it always works for me.
  8. I’m sorry, I know it’s tough to lose. This is the empathy approach, which can sometimes be the right way to go, but no one feels any better. You might even cause some tears with that one.
  9. You may have lost but your team played like winners. This sounds waaayy too corny coming out of my mouth, and my kids will call me on that one immediately.
  10. You know what I do when I lose a game like one of my tennis matches? I go shopping. It’s called retail therapy honey. Wanna try it?  It always works for me! I know, this may not work for boys but it’s worth a try because 1-9 are sure to fail. And even if he doesn’t want to go shopping, you can always buy something (like that new pair of leather boots you’ve had your eye on) to lift yourself up from feeling so bad for your son’s loss.

Do you say the wrong things to your child after he or she loses a game?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Janine Huldie December 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I don’t have much experience with this just yet, but will tell you that will Emma I think she would go for retail therapy, because the girl at 3 years old love girls and it totally a mini-me, lol!! I have never seen another three year old who gets the biggest kick out of a new skirt and boots!!


ohboymom December 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm

That is so cute! Sounds like I should take Emma with me the next time I go shopping! :)


Amy December 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Lol! My daughters would be completely satisfied with retail therapy! I’ll have to remember that one. :)


ohboymom December 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Sounds like you’ve got 3 little shoppers…very cute!


Angie December 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm

My 5th grade son finished a cross country running race with only one sneaker this fall. Tears streaked his face & everybody gathered around him to offer their sympathies. But all I could come up with was, “Stand up, stop crying. Shake it off. And THIS is why I am always telling you to tie your shoes. If it happens again, just kick the other one off and run in your socks. That was ridiculous hobbling around like that.” My husband was horrified & kept making the knife-across-your-throat gesture to me…


ohboymom December 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I say no matter what we say to them, we just can’t come out looking good. Nothing helps!


Cari @ MeetMyHusband December 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm

It sounds like kids are a lot like husbands! I got through the same thing with my husband when he has a bad day. I usually say the wrong thing, and he ends up getting over it on his own. Maybe it’s good practice for kids!


ohboymom December 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Yes you are so right – husbands are GREAT practice for kids! :)


Stacy Harris December 7, 2012 at 12:59 am

My kids aren’t really into the area of sports where they even count score, so luckily I don’t really have to think about this. However, my daughter did run for student Council president and she lost the race. I was really at a loss of words because I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better. I tried telling her that she had a lot of other stuff on her plates… that didn’t make her feel better either.


ohboymom December 7, 2012 at 1:04 am

I know, it’s a losing battle…no matter what we say, it doesn’t take away the disappointment. But, I do think kids are more resilient than adults!


Cyndi December 7, 2012 at 1:47 am

Oh man…what DO you say to them? That’s tough. :\ I lost plenty of basketball games…but somehow, I don’t remember a thing about what my parents told me. But then again…I was a weird kid, lol.


ohboymom December 7, 2012 at 2:27 am

I don’t remember what my parents told me either, but maybe that’s a good sign. It doesn’t matter what I tell my kids now — they won’t remember it later anyway! :)


Stephanie @ Mommy, for real. December 7, 2012 at 3:02 am

Oh, man! I guess it’s good that my oldest daughter is a graceless disaster like Mommy and hasn’t played any sports, because those are pretty much the only lines I would be able to come up with. Poor you- what are you supposed to say? Let us know if you ever figure it out! The last one seems like a sure winner to me! :)


ohboymom December 7, 2012 at 3:12 am

Me too! To me, shopping is a cure-all: even when you lose, you win! (if you go shopping, that is).


Colleen @ MommieDaze December 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

My son is playing indoor soccer right now, but he’s so non-competitive. It doesn’t seem to phase him if he wins or loses. I wish he would care a little. Maybe sports isn’t his calling.


ohboymom December 7, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I think it’s good he doesn’t care about winning at this point…if he sticks with playing sports, I can almost guarantee that will change. Thanks so much for commenting!


Michelle December 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I think the best thing to do is just not say anything and let them say it if they want to. That was my experience when I was teaching!! Anything you say could be the wrong thing to a stressed up kid. I loved this post!!


ohboymom December 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I agree Michelle – it does seem best to just let them be and deal with the loss on their own. Glad you liked the post!


Vikki Claflin December 8, 2012 at 2:56 am

I agree! I raised a boy, and sometimes NOTHING is the best thing to say. Great post!


ohboymom December 9, 2012 at 1:56 am

Thanks and it’s true that sometimes the more you say, the worse it is…


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