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Help me- competitive 4 year old

(8 Posts)
winnertakesitall Sun 11-May-14 16:41:39

Okay, this may not sound like a big deal- but it is driving me loopy. My DS- 4 years old- simply cannot stand to lose. We have just come home from another party, and again, I have had to stand there and explain to him about why he can't win every single party game. All the other children were gracious that they had been 'moving' in musical statues, and had to join the judging panel. Not my son; he stamps his feet, pouts, crosses his arms and sobs very loudly and dramatically. I was mortified. Again. This happens near on every party.

I've changed my username- as many of my 'mum'-friends are probably also on MN, and I am sure we now stick out like a sore thumb on this issue.

At the party, I reiterated to him that the behaviour isn't acceptable, and that it makes him look silly, but also that it makes the actual winners feel sad. He then refused to join in the next round, and the idiot that I am had to dance with him just to get him to join in (and stop sulking in the corner). When we got home, I made him take a star off his chart.

He is usually bright, and engaging, and funny- but incredibly headstrong! His teachers at preschool say he is a popular little boy. Another described him as 'astute' (whatever that may mean in a small child!!). But, with the bright lights of big school beckoning in September, I don't want him to have to learn the hard way that being mellow-dramatic over losing is just not cool.

We do play games at home, and we don't let him win for the sake of it- but when he loses, god, do we know about it- and it takes the shine off a fun session. We perservere!

So... what am I doing wrong, how do I help him?!? Please be gentle, as I had a little sob when I got home (at the bottom of the garden)- as the sheer repetitiveness of this problem is beginning to grate.

2Kids2Cats1Dog Sun 11-May-14 17:30:49

I think I would try and ignore it completely. When he behaves like this do not engage with him at all, pretend you havent noticed ie walk away, become engrossed in your phone, anything. Just in case its an attention seeking thing, even neg attention. Try and break the cycle, because obviously trying to jolly him up/talk him round does not work.

And let other mums quietly know this is what you are doing ie "bear with me I am trying a different tactic"

winnertakesitall Sun 11-May-14 20:17:32

I'll try it, especially if he replicates the behaviour at home again

But at the party he was having the initial meltdown well away from me, in front of the 'party entertainer' bloke... I felt I had to intervene to give the poor (young) guy some slack- he looked very unsure as to what to do with this stroppy child!

DeWee Mon 12-May-14 09:52:28

I think there's often a child like this at parties, I've seen it many times. Usually as they get older, then peer pressure helps, because the other children will not have any patience.

I would have left him sulking in the corner, perhaps said to him "do you want to join?" once, and perhaps once more part way through if he looked like he was coming out of the sulk.

I would also warn him before he goes to a party where there's likely to be games. You may win some, you may win none, what makes me really proud is when you lose nicely, type of thing. If you get cross because you're out/not won then we will take a star off/go home immediately/not go to the park afterwards...
And carry it through. If you are going to go home though, you need to warn the hosts that it may happen. And you need to do it as quickly and quietly as possible. One quick, "I said if you sulked we would go home," turn round, give him a very quick chance to back down, scoop him up and take him out.
If you think he will respond quickly to that, sitting in the car for 5-10 minutes to calm down and then being allowed to go back if he give apologies to the host, will work better for some children. Otherwise take him home.

If it's a quiet sulk, I would just leave him to it. If it's noisy and hard for the other children to ignore than I would go for taking home.

Bumpsadaisie Mon 12-May-14 11:01:23

Bless him. It's really difficult as adults to understand why the hell these kinds of things are so important to them.

If its any use I was a very competitive child, till much older than your little boy. I can remember sobbing if I lost a board game against the rest of the family, especially if it was one I usually won.

Whether I won or not was massively linked to my self-assessment of how how "good" (morally) I was and how "clever" I was. Therefore if I lost I felt pretty rubbish about myself. Heck, I even felt embarrassed and ashamed that I hadn't managed to keep up my winning streak.

Do you think your boy feels rubbish about himself if he doesn't win? Do you think he has a crisis of confidence about himself? After all preschool is a time when his main aim in life is to feel competent in the world and like he can do things and manage things himself. I wonder if he feels useless if he doesn't win. For that reason I am not sure that taking a star off his chart is helpful, perhaps it just reinforces the idea that he is useless and rubbish and undeserving. You never know he might struggle to understand he is losing a star for complaining about not winning, he might associate the loss of the star with his feelings of "lack of competence" causing him "not to win".

I don't think there is much point trying to "explain" to him why he shouldn't feel upset if he loses or tell him its not acceptable to feel really upset about losing. After all these are the feelings he's feeling and they are reasonable ones too, at this age.

Do you think it might help him if instead you helped him to give words to his feelings? Eg he has a meltdown as he has lost, you take him to one side, give him a cuddle and say "oh dear, you are feeling really upset because you didn't win. You must be feeling really disappointed." Or tell him a story about how you used to feel really upset about losing too. Etc. Then you might find (just possibly) that he doesn't act out the feelings so much by having a mega strop?

Don't worry about school. Teachers understand that reception children are very little and not in control of their emotions and behaviour fully. Especially when they are all tired at the end of term, there are plenty of meltdowns in the playground at hometime, for all sorts of reasons, big and small.

They also grow up a huge amount between 4 and 5.

Good luck, he sounds like a very sweet boy.

winnertakesitall Mon 12-May-14 17:09:42

Thanks guys- will try a range of approaches. Bumps- he may well feel that way- he really really likes to be the best at everything! He doesn't appear lacking in confidence, in fact he seems to think he really is the ultimate at all he does (and many things he doesn't do- ie "I don't need tennis lessons mummy, I am already the best player in the world"...when we were walking past the courts one day- and he's never played tennis!)

I very much like the idea of talking through his emotions as I just don't have a clue much of the time!!

calistamommy Mon 12-May-14 17:32:32

my dd can be a bit like that she's 5. at 4/4.5 she was really bad crying stomping etc, try looking at amazon for books about winning & loseing or taking turns ( so he understands he has to take it in turns to win ) we also, when playing games at home, would congratulate the winner ( rather enthusiastically !) and when I won and the others congratulated me I would say "oh thank you that's really kind of you to say that" felt a bit of a Pratt but it did help. he's still only young and I'm sure this is just a very common phase x

Kleinzeit Mon 12-May-14 17:34:33

It’s doesn't sound like stroppiness, more like immaturity and lack of self-control to handle disappointment, so scolding or removing stars is not likely to help. Some kids are a bit black-and-white and they feel if they’re not the very best then they’re the worst in the world. At the party, I would have got him out of the way of the entertainer and then left him to get over it by himself, and taken him home if he couldn't quieten down. (I really hate it when recovering self control quietly by oneself is perceived by adults as deliberate sulking!)

So as well as the things people have suggested, it wont do any harm to cut down on situations where he loses at home until he can cope better. You can do things like swap players if he’s far behind, or engineer a close-run game so he only just wins. Get him to congratulate the loser for playing well. Play co-operative games as well, or ones where there isn’t a clear cut winner and you can say “Mum did best on points and Johnny got the knockout” or whatever. It all helps to take the pressure off about winning and losing.

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