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Losing skills. How to teach them?

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Losing skills. Bea Inclusive TV and Podcast - Episode 005

In this episode, you will find out the following:

  1. Why do some pupils find it challenging to deal with winning and losing concepts?

  2. What are the possible reasons that children may struggle with that?

  3. How to teach the child to cope with losing?

  4. Why is it important to teach children to cope with losing?

Hey There

For some children concept of losing an object in a game, is very hard and can cause a lot of challenging behaviours for adults and their peers.

My name is Beata Bednarska and welcome to Bea Inclusive TV and Podcast. The place to be to learn and develop your skills so you can teach and support children’s development in the areas of language, communication, social, and behaviour.

Welcome to the Q&A on Thursday when I answer your question. In this episode of Q&A, you will learn about:

  1. Why do some pupils find it challenging to deal with winning and losing concepts?

  2. What are the possible reasons that children may struggle with that?

  3. How to teach the child to cope with losing?

  4. Why is it important to teach children to cope with losing?

Big thank you to Bev, who sent me this question and oh boy! What an excellent question is:

“I’m wondering if you can advise me on any ideas for teaching a particular pupil to accept losing. I find it hard to plan activities other than simple builds”.

“When playing football, he will do anything to win…. pushing other pupils over, he feels he is the best so therefore must make all the decisions, take all the shots. He easily loses focus during Lego (and class activities)- if the pace is too slow, if another pupil is finding it tricky to verbalise their thoughts- we’ve now got other parents saying they don’t want their child to play with him due to his impulsiveness”.

“I also have 2 years one pupils both with ASC, they will hit, shout “I don’t want ……… to win” they will both blame each other “it’s……. fault “they are both very vocal and we will often have tears of anger that the other has won a game”.

“Take your pick. I look forward to your blog and increasing my Lego knowledge to support the children in developing new skills. Lego therapy is by far the best tool I use”.

Thank you, Bev this is a very good question, as a lot of teachers and parents struggle with this, and I was no exception. Let’s get this party started 🙂

  1. Why do some pupils find it challenging to deal with winning and losing concepts?

Losing a game, it’s a very difficult concept for some ASC (Autistic Spectrum Condition) children, and they may have problems self-regulate and expressing their disappointment in a calm and socially acceptable way.

They could shout, swear, hit, damage the game, hide or through elements of the game, throw a tantrum or have an emotional outburst.

  1. What are the possible reasons that children may struggle with that?

  2. Lack of losing experiences – as parents or supporting adults may have allowed them to win all the time so they didn’t develop coping strategies when they lose the game.

  3. Struggle in the “Theory of Mind” – the term is used to describe self-awareness and awareness of others. Understanding that people have intentions, desires and beliefs that are different to your own. They may struggle with the concept that all children can be good at playing the game and have the same chance to win. 

  4. Struggle in “Impaired Executive Functioning” – the cognitive processes that help us regulate, control and manage our thoughts and actions. They may struggle with self-regulation or have poor impulse control.

  5. The rigidity of thinking – inflexibility of thinking and focusing on the single aspect of the activity, in our case – winning in the game.

How to teach the child to cope with losing?

  1. Always start with a one-on-one short session and play a simple game, for example: throwing the bin bag into the empty bucket, skittles, Pop up Pirate, etc. It would be great if you would choose a game that does not excite the child very much. So, it will be easier to model the response. When the child masters the skills with you, then it will be time to generalise (a different place or different adult). After that, you can introduce another child and, from that, progress to a small group of 3-4 children before expecting the child to cope with this skill in the classroom or the playground.

  2. Allow the student to win 2-3 times so you can model the things that we say when we, are not winners, such as: “Well done, I will get you next time”; “I lost, that was fun, let’s play again”; “I lost again, I’m disappointed, but I will do my best to win so let’s play”.

  3. Prepare necessary visual support, such as verbal prompts, so when the child loses, he can choose what to say. 

  4. You can ask the child what level he would like to play: Easy (you have a fair chance of winning), Difficult (winning is not easy, so you may lose) or Hard (you are more likely to lose), and prepare necessary visual support. Nowadays, children are familiar with this concept as they play plenty of computer games, so they will understand what to expect.

  5. Reinforce and praise each time the child stays calm or use visual prompts to help him accept that s/he didn’t win. Ignore temper tantrums (if it occurs in the form of crying, shouting, stomping his feet or throwing himself onto the floor).

At first, it may make the tantrum worse, but eventually, your child will grow bored when he sees he doesn’t have an audience. Avoid looking at the child and limit talking. When calm, give him positive attention and two choices (play the game again or do something else).

  1. Reflect on the child’s feelings and model the correct response. Practice the responses.

  2. Teach the child self-regulatory skills to cope with the stress of losing, such as square breathing, belly breathing, etc.

  3. Support the whole process with the social story–  which is the way of illustrating facts around the concept of losing the game and giving the child potential tools to cope with the disappointment by teaching them new positive responses to the situation, for example: what to say, request break, ask to stop playing, ask to play the easy level of the game, square breathing, etc.

  4. Alternatively, to the social story, you may watch some children's movies about winning and losing, or you can use real video case studies from your school.

Why is it important to teach children to cope with losing?

Losing games:

  1. teaches people to show empathy and cope with the whole experience of losing

  2. help learns from own mistakes and think about strategies to improve.

  3. teaches children that they need to work hard to have success because good things are not just handed over to them

Children who do not experience losing can grow up to be anxious because they start seeing the possibility of not winning as some form of harm and they cannot deal with situations that do not go their way.

Children who do not cope with their feelings when they lose the game are having problems keeping friends. Peers are more likely will exclude them from the play because they make them feel uncomfortable.

If you would like to teach losing skills but DON’T have enough hours in the day, to prepare the resources, then I suggest  DOWNLOAD my free pack, which includes:

  1. what to say when I lose the game prompting cards

  2. different levels of the game prompt cards

  3. let’s square breath visual support

  4. choice board and four different options

  5. example of a social story about losing

  6. anger rules,

  7. Lego® based therapy easy games to practice losing skills

There you have it! I hope that you enjoyed my video today.

OK, guys! There you have it!

Now, I would love to hear from you!

After you’ve finished, join the discussion below in the comment box and feel free to share exactly what you’ve learned and, more importantly, the impact of teaching this skill on your pupils’ lives.

Please let me know what you think of today’s episode, an if you have more questions please contact me @BeaInclusive on all social media channels or write in the blog’s comment box below this video on

Once you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list, you will never miss my next Bea Inclusive TV episode, and you’ll get a massive pack of love, positivity and active learning.

If you want to have a little more structure on how to help and support children's communication and social skills and how to organise and run your Lego-based Therapy in your setting, get your butt into my Brick by Brick Academy.

The door to this online training will open in October, so if you are interested, put your name on the waiting list so you will not miss my free masterclass training.

OK, guys, thank you so much for being here with me.

I’m so fortunate that I can share with you my passion.

Until next time.

Stay on your game because someone in your class needs the special skills that you can only give.


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