Teaching Children How To Lose

We live in a “winning” culture. We love winners. We worship winners. We want to be friends with winners. We follow winners on twitter. We want to know how winners train. Eat. Sleep. Live. In a way we worship winners. Many people think winning is part of the fabric that makes America great. It’s like Patton said, “America loves a winner.”

That’s America. But is that Christian? The Apostle Paul would whole heartedly disagree with the famous Bible reading General Patton. Paul says this in I Corinthians.

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! – I Corinthians 6:7-8

In a culture that loves to display strength or victory, it is important we take the time to teach our children how to lose. Don’t get me wrong I love watching my kids win. I love watching them succeed in academics, athletics; whatever they put their hands to I want them to succeed.

But there may be more wisdom here than we realize. If you look back over your adult life it wasn’t while you were winning your character was shaped. It was while losing. Losing tests us. And we all lose at some point. The question is when it comes to losing will you bounce back? To quote John Maxwell, do you know how to “fail forward“? Part of learning to “fail forward” starts with parenting.

Teaching our children to lose well, how to suffer wrong, to know when not to seek vengeance or even victory may be one of the greatest gifts you ever give you children.

  1. Model Humility

Humility is tough. It’s hard because we all think we are humble. But to be truly humble means you are willing to lose. Humility holds this world loosely.

I have found that humility is better caught than taught. Mainly, because, as soon as you try to teach humility you sound as if you know it all and that is the opposite of humility! How then can we teach our children to be humble? Model it.

You will have plenty of opportunities to do this with your children:

  • In an argument with your spouse
  • Driving in gridlock highway traffic
  • The stuff you buy
  • The people you are generous towards.
  • The home you buy
  • The car you drive
  • The stuff you share
  • The way you dress

They will see it. As they get older they will understand it. When they leave your home they will practice it.

Growing up both my parents were attorneys. As a teenager I knew they both made a lot of money. I was around attorneys all the time. I worked for my dad’s law firm. I saw what they drove. I went to parties at their homes. I saw how they dressed. Everything about the urban attorney lifestyle communicated wealth to me. While everyday I went home to a 1920’s small tutor style home in a nice but not too nice neighborhood near downtown Fort Worth. My dad never bought a new car. He rarely bought clothes. We had one small television in the living room. We lived a modest lifestyle. There was a season in my teen years when I begged my parents to buy a bigger nicer house like my friends. They just refused. Now I am much older. And knowing how to live the simple life has served me well. I can win or lose. It doesn’t matter because in all things I have learned how to be content (Philippians 4:11)

  1. Teach Grace

When your children win teach them to when gracefully. Remind them first of all that although they worked hard, so did the other kids. You son or daughter may be talented. But so are other kids. Had the ball bounced a different way. Had they suffered a “fluke” injury while training or playing. Had one little circumstance been “off” the outcome of the game would have been different. In all this we get to see God’s grace at work. Remind them that yes they won because they worked hard, however, if it were not for the grace of God the gift of winning would not have been possible. When they learn winning is a gift from glory can be given appropriately to God. As well as they can know that even losing is part of God’s will for their life. And if God wills it, it can’t be bad!

  1. Paint a bigger picture of success

Finally, drive it home with your kids the reason they do anything is to be faithful to God. When we sign up our kids for sports we remind them that the reason we are doing sports is to tell other kids about Jesus. To make friends. To have fun. To learn a skill. To be part of team. If they do those things they are a success. When we do this our children learn that winning is fun, but it is not everything.

Over time you will find that you taught them how to lose. And that’s a good thing.

They will learn to hold this world loosely and others tightly.

They will learn to love God more than success.

They will learn that losing is not the end of their story it is just another opportunity to be faithful to Jesus.

Thanks for reading,



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