win at losing

How to Teach Our Kids to Win at Losing with Sam Weinman

On today’s episode of The Good Dad Project, Sam Weinman tells us how to talk to our kids about failure and how to win at losing by using defeat as fertile ground for growth.

Sam Weinman

SAM WEINMAN is the digital editor of Golf Digest. Prior to that, he was a senior writer for The Journal News in Westchester County, New York, where he was honored with multiple national writing awards for his coverage of the PGA Tour and the National Hockey League. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf World, Yahoo! Sports, ESPN the Magazine, and Sports Illustrated. A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, he lives with his wife and two sons in Rye, New York, where he coaches multiple youth sports teams.

Win at Losing

Win at Losing is an engaging, inspiring exploration of the surprising value of setbacks—and how we can use them to succeed. Sam Weinman wrote this book with his kids in mind. He has two boys aged 9 and 11, and watched them struggle with losing. It was a theme he found himself revisiting with them whenever they experienced disappointment in school, sports, or friends. Sam knew that there was an upside to losing and he wanted to impress that concept on his boys with tangible examples. He set out to meet people who lost and benefitted from it, and this became the foundation for win at Losing.

Sam Weinman says he was always drawn to the losing athletes more than the winners and highlights examples of people who experienced epic failure, but persevered through it and became better people as a result.

Talking to Kids About Losing

Winning Isn’t Everything – To some degree we all live vicariously through our children and we sometimes enjoy their victories as much as they do. It’s human nature to celebrate success. Because of this, when our kids lose and there is no praise or celebration, it conveys a message that they aren’t worth as much. Don’t focus on the outcomes. Praise the effort. You may not even want to attend all your kids’ events so your children will know that their value is not derived from how they perform in school or sports.

Encourage Them to Try Their Best – It’s important for kids to learn to process disappointment in a way that’s not just self-pity and feeling worthless. As dads, we must learn how to effectively have conversations with our kids so they know that it’s okay to fail and that there is huge value in giving their best.

But Use “Try Your Best” Lightly – We need our kids to understand that life is about results. They will always be accountable to a grade or score. Just saying they did their best is not enough. There is effort, and there’s real effort. There must be exertion there, and the older ours kids get, the more they will be able to tell deep down inside whether they gave it their all or not.

Don’t Push Too Hard – We want to push encourage kids to succeed, and we should be critical about them not giving their full effort, but there is a fine line to be aware of. If we push too much, we can burn them out and turn them off. Sam says he checks in with his sons and asks them if he’s too hard on them. One his sons is receptive to being pushed and tells him it’s okay, while his other son takes too much pushing as criticism. Each child is different.

Remember This Above All – In a lifetime with your child, sports will likely be a small part of your relationship. Make sure you’re not damaging the overall bond you have with your child by pushing them to hard.

Sam Weinman’s Dad Wisdom

As dads, we need to resist the urge to try to solve all our kids’ problems. When we give into this urge, we are taking away their ability to solve problems on their own. They need the skills to work through challenges and the only way they learn this by making mistakes.


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