What Children Really Need to Know About Winning and Losing

August 31, 2015

In life, there are winners and losers.

However, over the course of a generation, we parents have tried to erase the “winning” and “losing” vocabulary from childhood. Our children sign up for little league ball, and everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season. Everyone goes home happy.

Participation ribbons, awards for just showing up, these are derided by many parents as the “wussification” of our society. They demand that we show our children that not everyone in the world wins. You can’t just win by showing up.

I believe that is true.

Some kids were not born to win. Some are losers.

What we parents often do not see is just how much more competitive we have become with our children over the past few generations. Sure, we may tolerate participation awards. But our goals as parents, as a culture, have shifted.

We used to strive to raise good citizens.

Now, we raise our children to win. We need our children to be competitive, against all the other children. So they can get into a good college, and launch a good career, and have a good salary and “win” at life.

It’s our kids versus everyone else’s kids.

The problem is that we used to see all the kids in our communities as our kids. It wasn’t our kids versus those other kids.

I’ve been reading Robert Putnam’s book, appropriately titled Our Kids, and he makes this very point.

Why as a culture, are our kids failing, falling behind the rest of the world?

Because we have raised them in an us versus them society.

So yeah, I want my son to know that there are losers in life. Some kids are losers. They lost the cosmic lottery and wound up without enough to eat. They lost and have to attend a poor school. They lost and have to deal with crime and broken neighborhoods. I am afraid that on both sides of the coin, there is something missing. One side says that all kids are winners, and the other side is super competitive, and I’m not sure either one teaches our children to see the real injustice that is in the world. One trains them to think that everyone is the same as them. The other teaches that it’s everyone for himself.

How do all of our kids become winners?


All our kids become winners when we adults start treating all children like our children. Children start winning when we stop pitting them against each other.

I want my son to know that there are winners and losers in life.

And I hope he has the compassion to do something about it.

One response to What Children Really Need to Know About Winning and Losing

  1. ….and this post was brought to you by Donald Trump:

    “You’re a LEWWSAH, Appling.”

    kidding aside, i just wanted to write that i agree with you. i 100% agree. you hit the nail on the head and i have nothing more to add, because it’s as simple as that. i mean, wasn’t it Jesus who said something about loving your neighbour, when you know you’re definitely more “progresed” than them socially/physically/mentally/spiritually and when its convenient? my mistake. He said to love your neighbour as much as you love yourself. hows that for a punch in a gut.

    i’m nominating this post for a 2015 No-Churchie Award, not for the glory, but for the message.