How To Be OK When You Aren’t In First Place At School Or At Home

Do you really hate it when you don’t win at games, races or quizzes? Do you get angry and upset with your friends, family or classmates if you don’t end up in first place?

Lots of people feel like this! But it isn’t good if your feelings get really big and spoil things. That can be horrible for your friends and make you very unhappy and tired.

Do You Upset Other People?

It’s OK to feel disappointed. But it’s not OK if you lose control and say or do hurtful things that upset other people.

If you feel jealous of the winner, that might make them sad and could make unhappy anyone who scored lower than you. If you have team-mates, they might feel confused and might not want to play with you again, which would be a shame.

Try to behave how you would like other people to behave. Be nice at winning – and nice at losing.

Focus On the Game Itself

“It’s not about the winning – it’s about the taking part!” Adults might say this to you. It means that spending fun times with your friends is more important than any ‘winning’ at the end. It means that having a laugh just ‘taking part’ in a sport with your family is really where the happiness is.

Enjoy the game. Perhaps play it with no-one doing the scoring. Or find some sports, crafts, music or other fun that has no right and wrong and no winners or losers.

Next time, before you even start a competition, say to yourself that winning doesn’t matter and you are going to have fun in every moment. Try to do well, but forget about the score at the end.

Don’t take things so seriously that they stop being fun. Believe in yourself and know you are good enough just as you are.

Learn Every Day

As a baby, you couldn’t brush your own teeth – you probably didn’t even have any! You have had to wait, learn new skills and practise a lot to be able to get it right with the toothbrush! We all learn new things every day, so even if you are very clever, there will still be facts and moves you don’t yet know.

Many very clever people actually say that being really good at things can make it feel much worse when they don’t know something. They say they can feel upset, embarrassed or cross, but they have to be calm and learn patiently instead.

Remember that nobody is fantastic at absolutely everything! Even superheroes and people in books have different skills. Some are big and strong, but others are small and great spies. Some are good at puzzles, but others gain the trust of animals…

It’s Just Luck!

Lots of games (like picking a card) are only about luck, not about knowing facts or having a thing you could do better at. So relax – winning (or losing) these games is pure chance.

Also, did you know that some important medicines and household items only exist because someone forgot something or ‘got it wrong’? By ‘failing’, a lucky thing happened. Because they didn’t shout, cry or give up after their mistake, we now have those great inventions!

Are Things Difficult For You?

Are things harder for you than for other people? Perhaps you have a disability, anxiety, neurodiversity or a special need (‘SEN’ or ‘SEND’) at school?

Discover stories of clever thinkers and talented people who are like you, too in our series Inspirational figures. Some are famous scientists, artists or games developers. For example, there’s Ellie Simmonds, the Paralympic swimmer who starred on Strictly Come Dancing, Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter and Springwatch’s wildlife expert Chris Packham. Every one of these people is, for example, autistic, finds it hard to sit still and concentrate or has been told by a doctor that their body doesn’t work the same as most other people’s. But none of them have given up! In fact, they have all kept trying again.

So if you ever feel like things ‘aren’t fair’, remember these amazing people and work out your strengths, like they have. Your excellent memory might make you great for ‘remembering’ games, but you might not be a fast runner. Or you may love board games but find it hard to read the question cards. Ask for help. Do a mixture of games. And find fun in them all!

What Do Other People Do?

Find the right people to copy. Take a calm breath and think about someone you admire on TV or in a book who is a ‘good loser’. Maybe they are kind or perhaps they keep trying new ideas that in the end solve a crime?

What happens in your favourite sports? In games like tennis and football, players shake hands with the other side at the end of a game and try to be what is called ‘good sports’.

Are the people you play with good sports like this? If so, that’s great! You probably feel happy to suggest games with them. If not, perhaps you feel a bit worried about how they will react if they lose. You could ask if everyone can try to play differently from now on and learn how to be good sports.

With practice, as you get older, it will keep getting easier to be chilled out when you don’t end up in first place.

Be a Kind Loser

Sometimes people will try to make you cross if you come 2nd or 3rd. They might tease you or say mean things because they think it’s funny to see you react or because they don’t like losing either. Don’t let yourself react badly! Behave like someone they would want to copy, take no notice and move on happily to the next thing you want to do.

Try saying things like:

  • “Well done on winning!”
  • “You got the last answer so quickly!” (Or the last goal, song or whatever you are doing.)
  • “Thank you for playing – can we have another go?”

Be a Kind Winner

Remember how it can feel to not win and don’t show off in a mean way. Be happy and proud of yourself, but say nice things to the other people playing, too. Perhaps they actually got a top score or did something you thought was really good.

Try saying things like:

  • “You were really good – it was fun to play with you.”
  • “You are so good at…!” (Say something you think they did well.)
  • “Thank you for playing – can we have another go?”. (This works when you are the winner or loser!)

You CAN Be a Good Sport!

Reading this, you have actually already started on the way to become a good sport! Well done! It is fun to play games that are a little difficult. That can mean you don’t always win, but it wouldn’t be much fun if everyone just ‘let you win’ so that you didn’t make a fuss. You would soon want to stop playing – and so would they.

Be a good sport and a good loser as well as a good winner and have lots of fun!

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About the author: Gillie Ithell is writer, adviser and Advice & Information Officer for Potential Plus UK, holding a B.A. in Modern Languages & Communication and further qualifications in mental health. Having worked internationally as content manager of classic board games and ‘edutainment’ software, Gillie now writes to inspire others like herself; on a daily journey with High Learning Potential.