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Navigating Excessive Reactions: Understanding Your Child's Responses to Winning and Losing Games - An Occupational Therapy Perspective



In the context of occupational therapy, family games hold immense potential for fostering growth and development in children. However, some parents may be hesitant to engage in these games due to concerns about their child’s behaviors, particularly when it comes to winning and losing. This blog post delves into the significance of family games from an occupational therapy perspective, focusing on the impact of winning and losing on children’s behaviors. By understanding these dynamics and implementing effective strategies, families can create a supportive and enriching environment for everyone involved.

The Impact of Winning and Losing in Family Games:

  1. Emotional Regulation: Winning and losing can evoke strong emotions in children. Winning might lead to excitement and euphoria, while losing may trigger frustration or disappointment. Learning to manage these emotions is a crucial skill that can be cultivated through family games.
  2. Social Skills: The act of winning or losing gracefully involves demonstrating good sportsmanship and empathy towards others. Family games provide opportunities for children to practice these social skills in a safe and supportive setting.
  3. Self-Esteem: Winning can boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence, validating their efforts. Conversely, losing can challenge their self-confidence. As parents and caregivers, it is vital to create an environment where both winning and losing are celebrated as part of the learning process.
  4. Perseverance: Encountering losses in games can teach children resilience and perseverance. Occupational therapy recognizes the value of learning from failures and using them as stepping stones towards growth.
  5. Sibling and Peer Dynamics: Family games can offer insight into sibling or peer dynamics, such as competitiveness or cooperation. Addressing these behaviors can improve overall family relationships and social interactions.

Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviors during Winning and Losing:

  • Model Positive Behavior: As adults, demonstrating good sportsmanship and emotional regulation sets a powerful example for children to follow.
  • Focus on Effort: Acknowledge and praise the child’s efforts and strategies rather than solely emphasizing the outcome of the game. This reinforces the importance of the learning process over winning or losing.
  • Encourage Turn-Taking: Inclusive games with turn-taking help children understand the value of waiting and respecting others’ opportunities.
  • Teach Coping Strategies: Occupational therapists can provide coping techniques to manage the emotions associated with winning and losing, such as deep breathing or counting to ten.
  • Emphasize Teamwork: Cooperative games promote teamwork and encourage children to support each other, fostering positive interactions during both winning and losing situations.
  • Foster Open Communication: Encourage open discussions after games to talk about feelings and experiences related to winning and losing, enabling children to express themselves freely.

Incorporating Occupational Therapy Principles:

  1. Sensory Considerations: Be mindful of sensory sensitivities during games, ensuring a comfortable and supportive environment for the child.
  2. Goal Setting: Set achievable goals for the child within the game, focusing on personal growth rather than solely on winning.
  3. Individualized Strategies: Occupational therapists can tailor interventions to address specific behavioral challenges related to winning and losing.


Family games offer a valuable platform for children to develop essential skills in emotional regulation, social interaction, and self-esteem, while also providing insights into sibling and peer dynamics. Occupational therapy plays a vital role in guiding families to foster positive behaviors surrounding winning and losing. By implementing effective strategies, modeling positive behavior, and emphasizing the learning process, families can create an enriching environment that nurtures growth, resilience, and good sportsmanship. So, let’s embrace family games as an opportunity to learn and grow together, while celebrating every step of the journey, regardless of the final score.

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