Kids Motherhood

Why I Want My Son to Lose

Written by Christine Carter

My son was recently in an annual JiuJitsu tournament. He competed with kids in his age group from several different schools, and for the first two rounds of grappling, he won his matches with ease. I took a picture of him after one of the wins, and posted it on FB with the hashtags: #Fierce #Strong #Winner. This is all true.

But there is so much more to this story.

As the day unfolded things changed, and my heart continued to twist into regret that I used one particular hashtag:  #Winner. There is a profound hypocritical piece to this, of which I am still struggling to resolve.

You see, after those two wins, while we waited during the half time break, my son came to stand by me as he said “It’s so easy, mom.”


Here is where it gets real.

My boy is good at pretty much everything he does. It all comes easy to him. He’s incredibly gifted in athletics and academics, and can pretty much do anything he wants to do and do it quite well. He is used to winning, familiar with success, and rarely fails or falls.

I don’t like that one bit.

This has fed his perfectionism, and created this innate prideful programming in his mind through his formative years. He fears being lesser than or imperfect, and he anticipates and expects to be the best at everything he pursues. He works hard at times to assure he stays on the top- but he has rarely felt the weight of being submerged on the bottom.

He talks about the angst he feels to make sure he holds the “class record” for all the P.E. tests. He shares with excitement about winning races, or his ongoing scores while playing soccer or football or basketball at recess. He gloats about his high reading levels and how he can solve a math problem before his peers.

He lives on top. And he loves it there.

Now, don’t get me wrong- there is a fierce force within him to be kind, compassionate, and thoughtful despite this hidden arrogance. There is another drive to work hard and be fair and invest in his gifts with a sense of integrity and duty. There is also an innocence to his confidence that is naturally birthed without blame, but rather motivated by his abilities and the sheer determination and a natural drive to be the best he can be. I’m all for that.

We all need that motivation, that determination, and that confidence in who we are and what we can offer this world and ourselves, and sometimes a little pressure is a good thing.

But the problem I see isn’t in his skills or gifts or strong instincts…

It’s the missing element in his life that will grow him in new ways.

I want to enrich his world with opportunities that provide a bit of a pile up…

Instead of always being on top-

I want my kid to be on the bottom.

So after he said how easy the past two matches have been, I immediately challenged him. I told him he needed to go to the next age group where there are much bigger kids. My ten-year-old is fairly small, and these kids were big. On that particular mat, there were kids were 11 and 12 years old and some looked even older. They used additional submissive techniques like choke holds and arm bars, where there was evident danger and risk.

I pushed for that mat, because although it feels un-easy and conflicting, I know when my kids are in need of the nudge. What’s worse than staying safe and not daring to go another step? The deep longing of regret after the opportunity has passed.

I sensed his fear, his resistance, and his need for staying in his safe world of success.

He eyed the big kids and the fierce grappling on that mat, and claimed it was too much.

I kept pushing. I told him, he isn’t challenged and he isn’t growing or learning in the comfort zone he is in. I charged him to take brave steps into the new ring and dare to fail. I told him with utter honesty that he was bailing out for the sake of his pride. I call it like I see it. That’s how I parent.

I pushed more. He pulled back and we did a dance of pushing and pulling for a while until I pulled rank as his mom.

We walked over to his coach and I asserted the need for him to be challenged, while my kid continued to tiptoe on that fine line between wanting to go for it and needing to not budge one bit. He kept saying “Maybe after one more match”, and I kept repeating “NOW or never.”

I’m sure his coach thought I was a horrible pushy aggressive hard core monster of a mom, as he watched me battle with my boy with that “LOOK AT ME!” lecture, while my boy grew increasingly antsy with darting eyes- agitated and unsettled with it all. I was startlingly aggressive in my stance, and it felt ugly and mean and conflicting.

I don’t know why this beast within me was birthed, but as I process it all now- I realize it was that one word: “Easy” that got me.

I don’t want him to think life is easy. Because it’s not. I don’t want his perspective to be a landscape of easy. Easy doesn’t grow you. Easy doesn’t challenge you. Easy doesn’t take you to new places where you have to muddle through the messy hard parts of life, scavenging the bottom looking for signs of strength.

I believe I wanted my boy to grow from the bottom more than I wanted him to triumph on the top. It became this passionate pivotal moment for me- to persuade and push my boy-

To ultimately lose.

I wanted so desperately to take away the easy… And lead him into the hard.

I knew he would end up on the bottom. The bottom of some big older kid who would have him in a choke hold. I was aware that this was a daring move, but in that moment I felt this desperate disgust against anything easy for my kid. I wanted to throw him under the pile.

It turns out they found the strongest fighter in the same grappling age group as my kid- and paired them up for the next round.

Perfect compromise.

Same result.

My kid lost that match. I think he may have tasted the matt more than once while he fought hard from the bottom.

It was difficult to watch. I wanted to cry and rescue him. I wanted to take back everything I did and said. Because as much I knew this needed to happen, I also am well aware that watching my kid remain on top is always enjoyable for me to witness. Turns out, we both battled on the bottom.

And it’s exactly where we needed to be.

My precious #fierce #strong son lost that battle.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

We left that tournament a little worn, a little raw and a little unresolved.

But what I’m most proud of is how my kid lost.

He didn’t fall apart, question his worth, or get angry at me or at himself. He was able to recognize how brutally strong and skilled that kid was who defeated him.  He seemed to accept his limitations and quietly celebrate his efforts- both with a sense of integrity and a ripened taste of reality. I believe he got a bit rattled, but I also witnessed new forming character traits- the ones I want so desperately for him to grow.

The bottom doesn’t have to be that bad. We can actually learn a lot more from down there than from up top. Challenges and tests and trials are not easy– but we will come out a little bit stronger, a whole lot wiser, and interestingly enough-

We can even feel like a winner, having fought the fight hard. My boy felt pretty good about how hard he fought against that guy, despite not wining the match.

I’d add the hashtag #Winner to that loss any day, because he proved to be more of a winner on the bottom than he was on the top.

About the author

Christine Carter

Chris Carter is a SAHM of two pretty amazing kids. She has been writing at for six years, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration and faith. You can also find her work on For Every Mom, Blunt Moms, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Mamapedia, Her View From Home, Huffington Post, MomBabble, and Scary Mommy. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.”


  • Losing is a hard lesson for anyone to learn but I definitely agree with what you did here for your son. I wish I would’ve learned that life isn’t easy a little earlier in life! Great post!

    • Yes! It’s so hard, especially for kids. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your encouragement Harmony!

  • Yes! I love this so much! Good for you 🙂 I think in today’s culture when everything is about “selfies” and reality TV where we watch wealthy people live arrogant live, we should be teaching our kids humility. Even when they’re great at something, even when they succeed. I love that you recognized this in your son and I love that you pushing him out of his comfort zone (and yours too!) to help him grow as a person. What a fantastic moment.

    • Yes, especially in the world today- full of entitlement and empowerment- we need to teach our kids the blessings they can experience from the bottom. Life is rarely lived on the top!

  • Chris, I’ve never had the chance to recount for you my history of failure in the realm of education. After high school I proceeded to flunk out of two different colleges. I’ll bet I’m the first person you know who ever got a .45 GPA in a single semester. I was a partier and didn’t take school very seriously at all. With four years in the Army I attained a degree in attitude adjustment. I returned to college and for two years went on to make the dean’s list every semester for two years and get my degree. Later I earned my master’s degree at OSU. To this day I frequently tell this story especially to young people and proclaim that I am thankful for my failure. Had I passed, I would have proceeded at a very mediocre and superficial level, but instead I was able to attain excellence, albeit delayed. Yes, indeed, there are lessons to be learned in losing and in failing. Keep up the good work in relating them to us. Life is Good !!! <3

    • Oh Joe! What an incredible story!! I absolutely LOVE it. I’m so grateful you came by to read this and share it with me and the other readers as well. You are the perfect example of that trying journey from failure/challenges to commitment and hard work! I love how it paid off!

  • Chris, you constantly amaze me even more than you know. So seriously, love that you challenged your son and sounds like he learned a very important lesson here. Bravo, mama!!! <3

  • Bravo, Chris. You’ve gifted your son the ability to deal with losing at a young age. My son is like yours – things have always come easy for him. I was like you and wished that he would lose more often, so he’d learn how to deal with failure. How to pick himself up and carry on. It’s so important. Now that he’s in college, he’s truly challenged and I quietly note how he surrounds himself with friends who continue to challenge him.

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement Kelly! Coming from you, that means so much to me. You are a few miles down the road with your son and I LOVE learning from you! I hope I can describe Cade in the same way years from now. XO

    • Thank you so much for the vote of confidence Katy! I figure he’ll be introduced to more of these ‘gifts’ in time- and he’ll be better off for them all. “)

  • Good for you! I love that he proved to be a winner more on the bottom than the top. And it’s nice, and not surprising, that he reacted so wonderfully to losing.
    Scarlet is like that. We call her a generalist, because she’s just good at everything. She thinks living is easy.. imagine that?

  • Chris I love this. My son is on the other side – everything is so hard and he gets so upset with himself. Sigh. Good for you, friend. Truly.

    • I get that sweet boy’s struggles. My girl is like that- works SO hard for everything and never wins or accelerates at anything. Just yesterday at the pool, my boy was ‘racing’ with Cass and his time was better. BETTER. You should have seen Cassidy’s face. After YEARS of working so hard at this swim gig, her brother who has never invested any time or effort into swimming just beat her time. Sigh…

      I told her that her technique and endurance is what makes her a true swimmer- not speed. I also took Cade aside and told him he needs to let her WIN. It’s always a struggle with this over here. I still hold the belief that our kids who work so hard will ultimately be the winners in life- I see the determination and dedication and relentless spirit in my girl. There’s nothing more important than THAT. 🙂 Tucker will develop the same thing. XOXO

  • Your some is a class act – but how could he not be, with you as a mom? Things always come easy for Aud and I so worry about what will happen when they’re not. We all know the day is coming. I try to teach them to lose with dignity (unless it’s your team in the Super Bowl – which is why I never go to Super Bowl parties). I just hope she handles it with grace when the day comes.

    • The day will come, and come again and again and again- right? I understand your fears all too well, my friend! Super bowl parties… HA!

  • I think it is definitely good for our kids to get knocked out of their comfort zones every now and then. Life definitely isn’t easy and they should not be taught so. I also think enough tough challenges exist naturally that we don’t have to go looking for them — but in this case, you definitely made the right call. As hard and cruel as it may have felt I think you instinctively knew deep down your son could handle this bigger challenge. You trusted your mama heart and it proved a great lesson for you both.
    I was a little worried at first though that it might turn out like my own challenge did – when my mom asked my coach to race me against the higher grades because I was beating my age so soundly… and coach agreed. of course both certain that I would be run into the ground by those several years older than myself. Except I beat them all…. and set a new county record. LOL oops. But of course, as life goes, I did eventually meet my match in that one person I could never out run. And we became great training partners who always pushed each other towards our best and always supportive. She made me better and I grew to love her fierceness; even though I could never match it.

    • Thanks for your vote of confidence, my friend. My boy really needs those challenges. I want him to be equipped to handle loss and failure as life WILL present both, and often!

      And what an incredible story about your own experience growing up! I just love that.

  • Great lesson for your precious son, Chris. I’m sure it was hard to watch but well worth it after. It sounds like he lost like a champion :). You are so right that life is hard. They must learn this sooner or later. I also completely agree that we must struggle to grow. You have parented well, my friend. XO.

  • Oh, I’m so, so late here. Oh my gosh, are you a brave woman. Yes to all of this, but I would not have had that courage you demonstrated. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve been far too overprotective of my children all their lives. My older daughter, 15, is busting out of that all on her own, entirely self motivated to push her physical limits, even social ones. But that’s probably because she’s experienced the bottom. She’s the shortest on every bball team she’s ever been on and has struggled socially. Despite all of my efforts to protect her from getting hurt, she busts through and rises to every challenge before her. But then comes my son, 13. It’s all come easy peasey. Friends, sports, grades, even good skin so far:-) And he knows it. He’s my heart and gives me lots of hugs, but he doesn’t have to make things happen, because it all just happens for him, and now needing to retrain him a little to take initiative, to educate him how to handle life when it gets tough. So, I feel like I’m doing a lot of back pedaling with him. As for my third kid, well, those third kids are used to being on the bottom–not too worried about her. Thank you for your words, always, Christine.