My kids are ridiculously competitive. Everything is a game, a race or a challenge to them and neither of them will give an inch. And they are competitive about everything! Once my daughter burst into tears because she realized her brother’s birthday (June) always came before hers (August) which was sooooo not fair because she was born first.

They compete against each other:
I ate more corn than you!
I beat you to the car!
Mommy’s putting me to bed first!

Just yesterday they started competing about something bizarre; who has the most pictures up on their walls. Helen said she had 20, so Billy started randomly taping his drawings to his wall until he had more…

Helen's Room

Helen's Gallery. She has more on the other walls...

Billy's Room

Billy pasted everything he drew on his wall so he would win.

They compete against us:
My son will physically block me from getting to the staircase because he wants to win the race up the stairs
My daughter recently had a foot stamping hissy fit because her father beat her (2 out of 3 games) at Lego Star Wars.

And when they can’t win, they change the rules:
The race was to the sidewalk, not to the fence.

Or Cheat
I did touch the line first, you just didn’t see it.
I put my piece there before you, it got knocked over.

Or the loser will simply not acknowledge being bested by the superiority of his/her sibling by disavowing any contest.
It’s not a race!
I wasn’t playing for real.
I was just practicing.

I know it’s not just mine; most children are competitive. At our recent Mother-Daughter Sparks Sleepover, “team mom” won a race against “team Sparks”. Not only were there 12 identical dark mutinous looks on the faces of these otherwise adorable 5 & 6 year old girls, but I swear the temperature dropped a few degrees. Team Mom threw the next race…

And I hear its worse when you have two (or more!) of the same sex; boys are more competitive against their brothers, ditto for sisters against sisters. I have one of each so I can only imagine the insanity!

I think the competition is good for many reasons, not the least of which because I can harness its power for my own means: “Who’s going to have their boots on first? Who has their pajamas on? Who wants the first bath?” These all get my kids butts in gear like no body’s business. A healthy sense of competition is also helping them strive to always do their best and to do better than the time before. This serves them well in school and in sports.

But I have a real problem when my kids are sore losers and it’s tough for me to deal with it. The foot stamping hissy fit was kinda funny, but not a proper expression of disappointment. Trying to explain to a seriously mad preschooler how to be a gracious loser is damn near impossible.  The constant refrain of “I win” matched by the tears of the loser is quite frustrating.

So how do you help them win magnanimously, lose gracefully and accept the inevitability of both? Praising them when they ‘win’ is easy. Finding situations to praise them when they ‘lose’ well is tougher because it doesn’t happen as much. Lecturing, of course, is totally wasted breath. I fall back on telling them they can always try again.

What do you do to help your kids accept that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose?