The Problem With Not Having Any Losers

My first grader announced she was trying out for the end-of-the-year school Talent Show with a couple of girls in her class.

They had rehearsals at recess. And she practiced at the kitchen table. And outside.

photo copy 2

I didn’t voice my surprise at this announcement. But I was surprised. She can be shy in front of other people. And she doesn’t usually love that kind of attention.

But I signed the permission slip, encouraged and reminded her that no matter what the outcome, to have fun.

The group did the Cup Song (inspired by first graders who did the same song the year before).

Only my little girl’s cup rolled off the table. Twice.

She seemed a little worried, but nothing that a cookie after school didn’t fix.

When I picked her up the next day, she told me her group didn’t make the Talent Show.

She was disappointed. There wasn’t a ribbon or trophy. No stage or recognition.

We talked about something unique she could do next year. She’s already planning.

Because here’s what she did win: she learned something by losing.

And that made her want to try again.

Losing is a good part of life. It helps us define what we win even in loss. It builds character. It makes us work harder.

Because in real life, not everyone can win all the time..

And that’s why letting everyone win is a big problem.

the problem with letting everyone win

The participation trophies and the we-can’t-pick-winners-because-it-will-make-losers-feel-excluded are nothing more than a temporary reward for our kids. Making everyone feel like a winner is actually creating a culture of people who don’t know how to lose.

And it’s not just in sports and talent shows, last week a school actually called off their annual Honor Awards Ceremony in exchange for low-key recognition that didn’t make the rest of the kids feel left out since honor ceremonies are “exclusive” in nature. Seriously, I thought that was the point. Let’s not reward those who’ve had exceptional grades because it might make those who didn’t feel left out?

Here’s the problem with letting everyone win: When no one loses, it doesn’t make everyone a winner. It robs our kids of a chance to learn through failure or being excluded.

Letting everyone win empowers entitlement. It gives our children the false sense of security that we are owed something just for showing up. Letting everyone win doesn’t really make us work harder. That’s mostly learned through losing.

Participation does not always equal success.

And losing doesn’t make failures.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Elbert Hubbard

So, the next time your kid loses or is excluded or doesn’t get picked, hug them. And remind them the real reward is in trying.

Because there’s always next year.


P.S. Celebrating my book

CONROE_Kristen Welch_MAY14-FB


  1. 1


    Totally agree! A no loser philosophy is what’s helping to foster this generation of entitlement. What is intended to be “helpful” is actually really harmful to our youth. Glad your sweet girl will have this lesson to lean back.

    • 1.1

      Lori Ann says

      I ABSOLUTELY AND TOTALLY AGREE!!! Life isn’t always easy or fair, these kids will have no idea of what to do if they don’t win all the time. My father NEVER let us kids win at games. It would make my mother FURIOUS…But it taught us 4 kids to try harder to “Beat Dad!” Glad to see I’m not the only one out there that thinks like this!

  2. 2


    Yes. Just yes. Amen. They WILL not win someday, and, LORD, let it be while You and I are close so that we can both love them through it! Thanks for this word.

  3. 4

    LinhC says

    I totally agree! And it’s better to learn it when you’re younger rather than waiting until you don’t get that job, promotion, etc. that you wanted, but yet maybe you haven’t proven you deserved it.

    My teenage daughters are learning how to deal with disappointments – be gracious to those who won, be sad for themselves, be angry at themselves, then resolve to follow a plan to win it next time.

    • 4.1

      alli says

      Being gracious to those who win is very important. Sportsmanship and teamwork help us to be better citizens

  4. 5

    Melissa says

    This is a huge topic for me. We are doing our children a big disservice when we don’t teach them how to lose.

  5. 6


    I’ve had a problem with this concept since the first time I heard about it. Shouldn’t the point of playing a sport or being in a talent show be the fun of doing it? I mean, winning is great and everything, but it’s fun just to try. And like others have said, I want my children to learn how to lose while I’m around to help because sometimes we do everything right and even better than everyone else, and we still lose. That’s life, and life is not always (it’s not usually) fair.

    • 6.1

      Laurie says

      Thank you for saying this. You have a level head on your shoulders and understand the real issue is not winning and losing but participating.

  6. 7


    While I do agree with you here on the point that ‘trying is the most important part’, I also think there is a balance we can strike with this topic. We play games at home to teach our children how to lose, as well as how to win. We encourage our children to try in the first place but they aren’t always comfortable with that so we help them find other ways to participate.

    My oldest daughter has never liked competition in any capacity. She is very intelligent and, at age 9, a really great writer. She will not share her work or try to enter any writing competitions. Her teacher encourages her and so do we but sometimes, it’s okay not to compete. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is your fear and for her, we do reward her for trying when she does. We do celebrate her participation and tell her winning isn’t everything because often, the winners are not the best at something they are just the loudest.

    I wrote this for my talented and quiet daughter.

    Thank you for this post.

    • 7.1

      Tami says

      You teach your kids that “often… winners are not the best at something they are just the loudest”? I don’t understand?

      • 7.1.1

        Kathleen says

        That whole concept is the same as “everyone wins”. A child that never puts themselves “out there” but is still told at home “It’s OK honey, you’re still the best, just not the loudest” can live on never having failed because they have never tried to win.

      • 7.1.2

        Irene Mac says

        Yes, Chris I agree with you statement sometimes it’s the loudest one that wins. In our culture we are more concerned with the presentation than the content, or, like my husband likes to say we sell the sizzle, not the steak.


          Tami says

          So basically you are teaching your kids to sit back and let whatever it is you are going for come seek you out? Use that logic in seeking a job and see where it gets you… Don’t apply and put yourself out there … Let them find you? Yeah ok.. Too many people out there with the same level of talent and skills for that mentality .. You have to be “loud” and “sizzle” if that’s what you want to call it in order to get attention drawn to you.. THEN you can present your “steak”… wow


            Jill says

            No, she is right. I have seen it time and time again. The loudest and most sizzle but not the best content walking away with the prize. My daughter can write. But they insist on her being a cookie cutter writer. All sweetness and light. She is dark and moody. She can give you what you ask for, but you won’t be able to sleep after reading it. They overlook her work constantly. She never gets the recognition she deserves. But let me tell you. These cookie cutters getting 1st prize? None of them will publish in the future. My daughter? Count on it. She already has two published writers that have read her stuff and are submitting it. She has a future. No bang, no flash, no sizzle. Just her.

            Every year in drama, the other kids get recognized by everyone else, she gets named at the end of the year as the student of the year for her entire grade. Again, they are loud and sizzle, she quietly plugs away at her skills. But her drama teacher recognizes what she has on her hands. But if she were open her mouth to sing? Different story. The kid has a set of pipes that would blow you away. So she has lived in both worlds.

  7. 8

    Kerry Heurlin says

    I have a son 21 and a daughter 18 and they have learned tremendous life lessons by not winning, coming in 3rd, missing graduating with honors by an infinitesimal amount, making varsity but never playing. They are better for those experiences.

  8. 9

    Maria says

    Why try your hardest at anything if this mean you will not win? At work I would be upset if the individual that came late every day, did nothing and left early was rewarded with the same position and raise as I who comes early, leaves late and works through lunch to accomplish a task. There is no moral instilled and no drive to accomplish anything. The non worker gets the boot in the real world.

    Children who are not taught how to lose are the same ones that go off to college and the working word, realize the real world is full of “No”‘s and can’t handle the rejection. They are the centers of the tragedies we hear on the news every day. Our jobs as parents is to teach them what it means to be a graceful loser. By no means does this mean to taunt or degrade a loser. Simply a “I’m proud of you for trying your best” will do.

  9. 10

    alli says

    This is correct. But we must be careful about a works gospel. God knows losing teaches us lessons i think ONLY if we failed. But what if we didnt fail, but God chose favor over works. What i mean is He gives according to a different standard, like the parable of the workers in a vineyard. All were rewarded for thier part, maybe some did more maybe some did less, in accordance with the ability and purpose God gave them. Losing is important to learn what not to do and to learn perhaps that you SHOULDNT do certain things bc you are made for something else. However God gives rewards not necessarily based on our fitness or deserving of such. So losing should be the lesson, not why does this person get to win, i think everyone wins just not in the same way. That way theres no competition in God.

  10. 13

    Lucy says

    I have just discovered your blog – and this is my first article to read. How refreshing! What a great piece that I agree with. I have firmly brought my children up with this policy – though in the minority! They should always try their best at everything and put in the effort into all things and be proud of their accomplishment.. Sometimes that will be good enough to win a competition, be first etc – or sometimes it is not. Either way they learn a valuable lesson, to be a good loser and winner in life.
    We are about to send our eldest son off to an all boys senior school (age 11). At the school talk they did last week, they stated competition is good. They make a competition out of everything, from athletics to rugby, to writing and cooking. It teaches them to play fair, work hard, strive for better and to win graciously or lose heroically. That is so rare to hear in the schooling system in the UK nowadays.

    • 13.1

      Paulette Smith says

      Is this senior school a boarding school? Or does he get to come home after school? At age 11, or at ANY age below 18, I feel a child needs his parents on a daily basis, if maybe only to “be there” during those times of losing. My daughter’s father was placed in boarding schools since he was 6 years old in the UK. He saw his parents 2-3 times a year ONLY, as they lived in Sudan where his father was a commercial pilot. He missed his parents terribly. It did not “toughen him up”. He just learned that there was NO support system in place, with no parents to provide the nurturing and love he needed. He entered adulthood profoundly depressed. And he abandoned me and our 3year-old daughter for the excitement of a much younger woman and a different life. His parents divorced when he was a sophomore in college here in the states, and found out through one of his professors. They didn’t have the decency to tell him themselves. He stopped communicating with them…all trust was gone. So, as a result of “absent parents”, he never learned how to honor his commitments or see that life is what happens on a day-to-day basis. Boarding schools will never take the place of parents…yes, it was competitive – he learned all those things mentioned, but little else to help him be a responsible adult and parent. When we divorced, he was told by his father to just break off all contact with his daughter…and he did. She never recovered from this abandonment. I would be terribly disappointed to hear that parents from the UK haven’t changed their attitudes about sending children away when they need their parents the most! Or that families are expendable…

  11. 14

    Nichole says

    When we don’t allow there to be a winner and a loser we also miss out on learning to congratulate the one who did win. To cry with and console the friend who didn’t. We lose our ability to be joyous and proud of hard work and our ability to cradle a friend whose heart is hurting. We ALL lose with this practice becoming the norm.

  12. 15


    Totally agree. How about the kids whose parents volunteer as drama directors, lacrosse coaches….etc. so their kid can be on the higher teams. It takes away spots from those who should have it and gives their own kid a false sense of success which will crush them in time as well. If you are cut from soccer, orchestra, cheerleading or the chess club, it’s because it is perhaps not your calling. By “failing” it frees the person to seek out other successes which is there ACTUAL life path (not mommy and daddy’s)

    • 15.1


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  13. 16


    Thanks for sharing some (great) thoughts that might not be so popular in today’s society! I get so tired of hearing that everybody should be the same – No! Everybody shouldn’t be exactly the same. What if we were all hands or eyes, but no one was an ear? Just because someone’s better in one area doesn’t negate my worth – it lets me discover my own area to shine in!

  14. 17

    mary says

    losing is a teaching moment, but the problem with losing is when the parent, or child, or anyone really, thinks winning is the only way. there are people in this world who put down their kids for not being the best at things. its not really a healthy attitude at all. and when you have a child carrying the burden their parent puts on them, then losing is a big deal. hopefully someone with that attitude will read this blog post and think twice!

  15. 18


    If you are even remotely competetive, you know that winning is important, and losing just spurs you to try harder and be more fierce next time. Winning feels good ONLY when you know you have earned it!
    My daughter was feeling slighted when she wasn’t invited to her school’s awards ceremony. She had had her best year ever, pulling all A’s and B’s for the first time! I AM proud of her, and she knows it, but she doesn’t deserve a trophy or award for this. And I let her know!
    Reward exceptionality, not mediocrity. You don’t get a trophy just for showing up. That is your JOB! You are supposed to be there. You are supposed to learn. You are supposed to play hard. You are supposed to try. It is expected, not rewarded.

    • 18.1

      Kristin Violi says

      Well sometimes mediocrity is exceptional for someone. If she had her best year and worked hard then she probably deserved recognition just like the child who maybe worked less and still got all As & a trip to the award ceremony. As and Bs and honor shouldn’t necessarily determine who worked hardest and who deserves the ribbon, but it does in our society? We have placed a label or A and B and C on working hard. There are kids who never study a day for a spelling test and still make 100s. And then you have kids who stays up for hours, make flash cards and write the word out 30 times and still make Bs. Should that B child feel mediocre. Sure, you may not make it to the spelling B, but it’s fair to recognize the hard work that child put in to become better. There is not a right or wrong here, but we need to think about this from all angles & w/ all children in mind. Who does our world reward and recognize? Is it always the one who worked and tried hardest? Not necessarily.

  16. 19

    Pastor Randy says

    The greatest “winning” lesson my son learned came during his youth football years. His coach, a former NFL player, had this philosophy. “Learn the skills and how to perform them best. Perform them to the best of your ability each time you step onto the field. If you do these things, the winning and losing will take care of itself.” The first season my son’s team lost 11 of 12 games. The second season, they won 6 and lost 6. The last 2 seasons, they won every game. They learned to do things right and they learned to put their best forward each time. There were so many lessons in those 4 seasons. My son, now 30, lives his life and raises his family with this same philosophy. I continue to Thank God for the life lessons taught by this football coach.

  17. 20

    Jill P says

    I think that some things need to have winners/losers, while others its perfectly fine to just be in and get your “applause.” Especially when they are younger to get used to preforming in front of others. I also think keeping score is fine and just telling everyone good job without making a huge scene about who won or lost.

  18. 21

    Tricia says

    I do understand what you are all saying but what if there are circumstances that makes a child always feel like a loser. Growing up I was abused and felt like a loser. It flowed into my school days which only made it worse. Even though they have counselors or anything else available nowadays there is always that one child who always gets there hopes smashed. If there is a winner give them that special award but for the others give them a great try ribbon. Do not finish there, work with the losers if they like to dance, sing, gymnastics,etc.. Problem is schools have these talent shows and once they are done all is over. Schools need to encourage others to succeed after that..

  19. 22

    Kristin Violi says

    “We lose when we stop trying.” Is this really true all the time? I know lots of kids who try really, really, really hard and they are still going to lose at times. If I told my child to just try running harder and he might when the race in PE, then that would be absurd. The truth is he is going to lose every single time because he is not the fastest. How about, “Do your best. God didn’t create us to all be runners, but heck ya you can grab a ribbon when you finsih the race because you ran & tried.” And let’s never forget the kids that work hard time and time again and things are still challenging for them and they are never going to be first, second or third. Failure for them doesn’t always build character or cause them to work harder. It can actually do the opposite if they are never being recognized So it typically is the same type learner or child who is receiving the awards and recognition. And even if you hand trophies to all of them, the loser still knows who they are. Our world is good at pointing that out fast. So I believe there is no harm in participation trophies when our kids are little. They will experience dissapointment and failure soon enough. So for now, I’ll let my little one line his trophies up on his nightstand and smile at them.

  20. 23

    Elisabeth says

    When anyone stops trying, they don’teven give themselves a chance to win. So yes, one will lose when they stop trying. That’s pretty clear. My children played on a little league team that didn’t win one game. They would score, but not enough to win. When they didn’t even try because they got frustrated, they played worse. When they tried and put in an effort, they not only played better but they also enjoyed playing. They learned that when they try, they give themselves a better chance to win AND that they have fun. When they don’t try, they don’t perform well and they don’t have fun.
    My son is in wrestling and he understands, at 7, that when he puts in the effort he can defeat his opponent. When he doesn’t put out an effort he is defeated. If he doesn’t want to be defeated he has to work at defending himself. He’s 7. He started when he was 6. There are kids younger than him in the wrestling group who also understand this concept. Those who lose their matches are still praised for their effort and told to never give up.
    I’d rather my son learn that lesson and that a trophy is something you work hard for and earn honestly, not just because you show up.
    Terrific article and I agree whole-heartedly. Thank you for this.

    • 23.1

      Kristin says

      Certainly true, but it doesn’t mean if we work hard and keep trying that we are going to win or be rewarded. :)

  21. 24


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  22. 25


    Yes, you are absolutely right. Not winning or getting the result you want does make you try harder. It lets you see what it takes to win & see the areas you need to strengthen in. By the way, I am very familiar w/the cup song. I work with kids & my clients love to sing the song & show the cup routine to me. It’s pretty popular.

  23. 28


    I agree! You can’t know the true feeling of victory if you have never failed. Making everyone winners doesn’t prepare us for adulthood and all of the ups and downs that go with it. Great post!

  24. 29

    Tkgrands says

    Totally agree with this!!! Those trophies that kids get just for being on a team, whether they played or not, or whether they were good players or not, does nothing except set them up for failure later in life. It is the politically correct society we live in now that has fostered this tradition! People are so afraid of offending another person, parent or child, that they would rather just be inclusive! Well, LIFE is NOT Inclusive!!!! Just like kids need to fall sometimes, and skin their knees, they need to NOT WIN all the time! PARENTS these days need to get a grip, and take this into their own hands, and refuse to let their child accept these free gratis trophies! Unfortunately, most parents are the ones egging this on!

  25. 30

    Vicky Holycross says

    Absolutely! As a teacher and the parent of 2 successful grown men, I feel children should experience failure while they are still at home. If they do, a parent is there to teach them that everyone fails sometimes and that’s ok. I feel sorry for kids whose parents fix everything so that they never fail. In real life, everyone fails sometimes, and if that has never happened to you, how do you know how to cope?

  26. 31

    Lilly says

    If all us acted in a way with our children that allowed them to see that hardwork by their parents indeed increased their and their parents way of life become easier – if they were lucky. The first line in the book, The Road Less Travelled says simply and unappoligetically that “life was hard” I am 52 years of age and I can understand that life statement more clearly now than I ever would have at 22.

    Our children learn through the process that Mom and Dad can act towards each other with a very different approach to life. If what they witness when their parents speak respectfully, sharing the pieces of life that the kids as they the result can be so different than how learn to be fractured and lost, angry and entitled. Parent can help form their childrens mind with positivity, kind heartedness if the can witness their life unfold in a manner they learn by example and intuit kindess rather than anger. If mom and dad are speaking in loving tones, working through their responsibilities, commitments financially, ethically, mo€rally, and with love, children will see very different responses, than if discussion is name calling, threatening and with such disrespect, there lesson is very different in this environment.

    in a non-threating manner, with parents that can actually have an impact on their children. Help them be generous, kind, not always looking for the most cruel, easiest, and often violent reaction. Parents, we can do more than we think. All it requires is time (do you really have to watch all 8 hockey games this weekend, or could you take on game’s time, and actually spent some really good time with you kid.

    You can have all the stuff in the world, conceivably wealthy. Nothing can buy your child’s relationship with you and even more, theirs with their world. They are the ones that will be in charge someday@

  27. 32


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