Beware The Ides of the “Coolest” Month — March!

Winning and losing seems to be everywhere in our culture these days, in politics, social media, television programing, contests, ratings, rankings, even in love.  After all, isn’t it award season when we not only tune in to see who’s the “best” but how the acceptance speech is delivered? 

Revered public figures turn their back on winners, others don’t show, still some strike a pose of quiet acceptance at the loss.  Our attention is drawn to magazine covers boasting who is wealthiest, sexiest, most beautiful, who wore it best, top athlete and even the winner for being the biggest loser!  On an interpersonal level our relationships seem characterized by more stress, anxiety and depression.  There is a quiet yet omnipresent theme of evaluation and competition that has now crept into daily living.

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To all my friends, colleagues and families who are familiar with our work at TMH, you know that March is my personal favorite.  That is because each year we get to write exciting, new curriculum in order to teach the art of winning and losing against the backdrop of our pop culture basketball championship, NCAA.

The psychological/developmental background to winning and losing may be observed at very young ages in preschool students.  Children seem to not only want to win, some need to win.  This pattern progresses into school age years where it may be more observable, the pride in winning versus the shame of defeat.  The desire may become so strong that children bend rules, cheat, insist on “do overs” and brag upon winning.  Some of these characteristics continue into adulthood and may be features of the developed personality.  There are many adults who set up a win-lose model of communication.  While there is pleasure in victory it is up to us to help children by re-framing defeat.  Assisting children into emotional maturity through practice gives them coping skills for life.  Healthy competition does teach teamwork, cooperation, rule following and commitment.  At the same time that our children, throughout their school years, are managing academic competition and social hurdles they are also now faced with the evaluative process imposed by social media.

The good news is that we can impact the skills around managing competition, winning and losing.  In other words, winning is in fact not the only thing.  By setting up opportunities for children to play games, deal with disappointment and enjoy the winning we encourage resilience.  The very best way is through adult modeling.  Using language while you play helps kids identify the feelings, controlling our emotions shows them the way.  We have the unique chance to help emotional maturity by displaying our own.  Sitting with a board game or on a tennis court, please don’t always let them win, but don’t defeat them to prove a point.  These ideas make for a winning solution.

Till next time,

Jacklyn Covell
Clinical Director