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Let kids practise losing

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Recently I listened to short video by Parentingideas Magazine contributor Maggie Dent that made so much sense.

In the video Maggie implores parents to let kids practise losing so they can become more resilient and also more social.

I couldn’t agree more.

Currently, there’s a flaw in modern Western culture that won’t allow kids to lose, to struggle or to experience disappointment. Interestingly, this is at a time when childhood anxiety is going through the roof.

In an effort to improve outcomes for kids we’ve created a childhood culture that is highly structured, highly organised and highly adult-initiated. This high level of organisation minimises failure, avoids disappointment and reduces struggle. And it does kids no favours!

The solution is to reduce adult-initiated activity and introduce more unrestricted, child-initiated, social play.

It’s through free play that kids have always learned about winning and losing; how to handle it when things don’t go your way; how to get on with all types of kids including the children your parents don’t approve of; how to wait your turn and; how to hang in there long enough until things eventually go your way.

Unstructured play is usually very hierarchical in nature. Older kids tend to boss around younger kids, who often return the favour in spades when it’s their turn to be the eldest.

Kids often rely on natural consequences to influence their friends and siblings. “I’m not going to play with you because you’re mean/you don’t share/you always go first!” Sometimes they bring adults into the mix to adjudicate, but they generally just resolve things their way regardless of what adults say!

Get kids away from screens

The key to resilience-inducing, socialising free play is that the play needs to involve other children or young people. Coping and social learning can’t be done in isolation. There needs to be a social element to it. Even playing computer games involving others from a distance doesn’t make the grade.

Face-to-face interactions that occur through free play develops the BIG 3 social behaviours in kids – that is, 1) co-operative, 2) assertive and 3) coping behaviours.

So make sure your children’s free time is balanced between structured adult-initiated activity such as after school sport; includes child-initiated calming down-time such as listening to music, and group-oriented free play (involving at least one other person) that is done either inside or outside (the latter should be included) where your child can practise losing, struggling, following the lead of others and heaps more great life skills and attitudes.

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