I don't know what to do about my super competitive son.

Teresa - posted on 09/15/2010 ( 3 moms have responded )




My 7 1/2 year old is an excellent athlete. He's gives 100% of himself to whatever sport he plays. He doesn't lose well though. Even if he's at another boys house playing soccer with his brother and their friends, he will get angry when he loses or someone else makes a mistake. The other day he got in a 10 year olds face and yelled at him because he said that it was just a game. I don't know how to teach him to calm down and keep his super competiveness on the field and not take it to a friends yard.


[deleted account]

this is a REALLY tough one with boys, especially... you want to address the unhealthy aspects while making sure to nurture what might be an exceptional athlete you have on your hands there! Now, I do apologize if I sound too "preachy" - it is not my intent but I am a psychologist and a mom and I happen to have been one of "those" kids with a slightly unhealthy streak of competitiveness!

There can be a variety of reasons for your son's competitive streak. It could be that it is a part of his nature. It could be that he feels a lot of pressure to live up to the expectations that he knows, or perceives are on him from you guys as parents or his coaches, teachers, friends, etc.... It could be that he is responding to what he believes to be punishment when he loses (internalizing it as himself being a loser rather than just losing a game or match). Or it could be any combination of those. It could be that he is watching people he admires and following in their footsteps. Again, it is probably a combination. Since you are asking this question on here and genuinely express concern I am guessing that your son is not being "punished" in any sort of way if he doesn't come out on top and win at everything. At his young age and with his above average athletic abilities, it sounds like intensity is just a part of his nature. Kids are also highly affected by their perception of expectations. If he hears you guys bragging about him or telling him how great he is and that no one is as good as him then that is likely to take his intensity to unhealthy levels. It is certainly okay to be encouraging and reward him but really, really, really try to avoid blanket statements about him being the best on the field, or on the court, or in the pool (whatever context he is competing in).

Also, Be sure to sit down with him regularly and discuss exactly what competitiveness is so he understands fully. Explain to him how being competitive can be a really healthy thing and can help him in being successful BUT if it goes too far it can really hurt him and his friends, and even you. Remind him that what is MOST important to you is that he has fun and learns new things and improves in his abilities, not that he wins every time. Remind him that winning is fun BUT when we don't win, it is sometimes the best way to figure out how to get better. Avoid the use of the word "lose" or "loser." Using "lost" or "loss" is okay (past tense is less loaded). We use the times that we don't win to remember that we can never stop learning and improving. We can look back at our losses and learn how to make changes. We can also use those times to congratulate our friends who do win and/or encourage our teammates in ways that they can learn and improve.

A classic pro’s and con’s list might be helpful to make on a giant poster board or something like that to show the positive and negatives to competitiveness - healthy and unhealthy competitive behaviors. Perhaps you could use a giant poster board and update it as you go through a season or when he plays with friends. Discuss the difference between healthy competition and overly competitiveness. Give your child a few examples and ask him/her to tell you which scenarios display which behavior. If possible, use real instances you have observed between your child and one of their friends OR from your own life.

Be as involved as possible, especially when potentially competitive activities will be taking place. Make sure that game rules are being carefully explained and known and understood by everyone.

Oftentimes, our kids just need to really internalize that there is NO SHAME in winning or losing, and that there is not even any shame in being sad or hurt that we lose but that we CAN NOT bring shame on other people.

Like I said earlier, not all cases of overly competitive children are the fault of the child. Parents, coaches, older siblings, friends, even athletes on tv, ALL HAVE influence on children. Take a look at yourself and around at the people your son is watching. Ask yourself: Are you being a supportive
parent? Are you putting too much pressure (Or allowing too much pressure) on your child to win or succeed? Are you punishing your child (or is he feeling punished or ashamed) when he doesn't win? Sometimes parents not only push their children to hard to be better, sometimes they over-praise them for being great. It is very easy for a proud parent to make this small mistake and subsequently put pressure on a child to succeed as well as make them feel like they are exceptionally superior to their peers.

So, we have to monitor our kids behavior, our own behavior, and make sure we know what our kids are watching, who they are watching.
Your last resort may have to be to take him out of situations that spark it (if it doesn't get better with dialogue and reason and practicing new ways of interacting).

Just keep being loving and patient and nurturing - I am SURE everything will work out!

This conversation has been closed to further comments


View replies by

Joan - posted on 09/15/2010




sounds like he may be personalizing the loss. it sounds like instead of realizing the game was lost he may feel that he is a loser. maybe you should ask him about this. maybe ask his dr about a therapist?

Schyla - posted on 09/15/2010




the best way is to lead by example and positive reinforcement set him down talk to him about why it's not ok to act like that when things don't go his way. Give him another outlet for his frustrations say to him when your playing a game and your friend makes a goal you should say hay man good job! and when he dose you need to make a big deal out of how proud of him you are for being such a good sport! and then watch yourself if something doesn't go your way do you handle this situation with grace and good sportsmanship or do you become upset. Watch your sons father as well as other important adults in his life see if it's coming from one of them and if it is address the issue with them as well Tell them your son is watching and that you need their help to teach him to be a good sport.

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms