Teaching Your Children How to Lose

My daughter wasn’t crying because she lost the spelling bee. She was crying because she got knocked out in the second round. She’s smart. That’s her thing. So missing the word tofu embarrassed her. To make it worse, she knew every word after that.

The tears started just as I was tucking her into bed. “I didn’t want to win the whole thing,” she said, “I just didn’t want to miss one so early.” What was I supposed to say? Better luck next time? Just keep trying? No one likes tofu?

We spend so much time as parents preparing our kids for success that sometimes we do a poor job of preparing them for failure. We help them with homework, drive them to soccer practice and even arrange play dates to help them thrive relationally.

Yet, no matter how much we set up our kids to win, sometimes they are going to lose. That’s just life in a fallen world. Despite their best effort, they will sometimes fail tests, get clobbered in soccer games and struggle to make friends.

How should we react in moments like this? How can we help them deal with disappointment while also preparing them to handle failure as adults?

Thankfully, the night of the spelling bee, God led the conversation exactly where it needed to go, and in the process, I discovered three things I will repeat every time my kids are dealing with failure.

  1. Empathize

Our kids need to know that we see their pain, and we care. When my daughters are hurting, my first instinct is to fix it. I want to give them advice, correct them or coach them how to do better next time.   However, in moments like these, I’m learning that the first thing they need is kindness. So when I didn’t know what to say, I just hugged my daughter and told her, “I know it’s hard and I’m sorry.”

  1. Affirm their identity.

Kids need to know that their value isn’t based on their performance. They are loved because they are children of God. Failure messes with our identity because we all tend to build our self-image around activities that give us affirmation.

That’s why it’s twice as hard when the smart kid gets knocked out of the spelling bee, or the athlete loses a game. A big part of our identity is based on areas of life where we excel.

That night, I reminded my daughter that she is a child of the king, adored by her Dad in heaven and her dad on earth and no spelling bee could change that. I told her that her worth doesn’t come from what she does, but whose she is. She is a daughter of God.

  1. Talk about kingdom.

Our kids need to discover a redemptive view of suffering in the small things to prepare them to navigate more challenging struggles in life. That’s why we need to point them back to the Bible in small moments like these.

Earlier that day, my daughter and I had been talking about Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (NLT). It had just popped into my head, and I felt prompted to share it with her. At the time I had no idea why.

When the spelling bee drama unfolded, however, I had a pretty good idea what God was up to. I mentioned the proverb again and suggested, “Maybe this is an opportunity to trust God.”

Later she confessed, “As soon as you read that verse to me, I knew it was about the spelling bee. I knew it was about me trusting God.”

I reminded her that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). That means sometimes He says no to a desire of our heart because He has a better yes waiting for us in the future. It means sometimes He lets us go through hardship so we can comfort others with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:4). It means that even bad things that happen can give us an opportunity to minister to others and advance the gospel (Phil 1:12).

And that, of course, is the ultimate win.

By reframing my daughter’s loss with a kingdom perspective, God helped me remind her that her life is part of a bigger story and that her purpose goes far beyond winning a spelling bee. At the end of the night, it was that part of conversation that made the biggest difference. She finally had peace about the situation, and soon afterwards, drifted off to sleep.

When it comes right down to it, God’s definition of winning and losing is very different than ours. After all, we follow a Savior who died on a cross. The more we can help our kids see their failures and frustrations from His point of view, the more we can guarantee they will continually experience the only victory that counts.

Are You Ready for Christmas?

presents.jpgAre you ready for Christmas?

I’ve been asking people that question everywhere I go. Neighbors. Cashiers. Teachers. Coworkers. Doesn’t matter who you are.   If you’ve run into me in the last couple of weeks, you probably heard it. It’s been my go to conversation starter this season.  I’m not great at small talk, so when I find something that works, I stick with it.

The answers, however, have surprised me. Almost to a person, everyone has responded by talking about presents.

Oh, we still have a few things to get.

I’ve barely started. I hope to knock it out this weekend.

My wife takes care of all that.

I do most of my shopping online.

We don’t really buy much.

The funny thing is, I didn’t say a thing about gifts. I asked if they were ready for Christmas.   That’s two entirely different things.

Don’t get me wrong, I love presents. I love to give them and don’t mind getting a few myself, but when it comes to Christmas, it bothers me that we spend much more time focused on what’s going under the tree, instead of on what’s going on in our hearts.

Are you ready for Christmas?

A man named Simeon was. A couple of thousand years ago, Simeon had been getting ready for that first Christmas for a long time. See, God had made a big promise to Simeon. He told Simeon that he wouldn’t die until he saw the Messiah with his own two eyes.

In Luke 2:25 it says, “he was waiting for the consolation of Israel.”  Jesus. The promised One.   The One who would enter into our suffering and bring us healing and peace.

By the time we meet Simeon, he’s an old man, and we have no idea when God made that promise. He could have been waiting for decades.

When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple, and on that day Simeon received the best Christmas present of all. He got to see Jesus face-to-face and even hold Him in his arms.

He said, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.  I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. ” (Luke 2:29-31 NLT).

Are you ready for Christmas?

Simeon was ready. He was ready because he’d made room in his heart for Jesus. He’d waited and longed and hoped and dreamed not about the presents under the tree, but about the God who was born under a star.

Simeon loved God with all of his heart. God was His greatest desire.  And God has a thing about rewarding those who seek Him. As Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Make room in your heart for Jesus today. Make Him the greatest desire of your heart. If you do, you will not just be ready for Christmas but for the day when He comes again.

If you’d more help preparing your heart for Christmas, here is a free ebook I wrote for grown-ups and another one for families and kids.  


You can also check out my Christmas devotional, Holiday Road, on Amazon or read a free chapter of it here.



The Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids This Christmas


Wow, can you believe it?  Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and Christmas is only 39 days away. 

I don’t know if you’ve already started shopping for your kids yet, but I wanted to offer a suggestion for the most valuable gift you could possibly get your children this year.  Best of all, it won’t cost you a dime.

It’s the gift of taking care of yourself.  

Wait!  Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.  The holidays are busy, crazy and stressful.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  There’s so much to do, so many people to see, complicated family dynamics to navigate and on and on and on.  

What we label as the most wonderful time of the year sometimes turns us into the worst version of ourselves—tired, grumpy and distracted.  

If we’re running on empty and neglecting our spiritual health, we won’t have anything of true value to offer our families.  

That’s why I wrote a free ebook called Spiritual Travel Tips for the Holiday Road.   Inside you’ll find devotionals, Scripture and intentional questions to help you make a plan to keep yourself healthy, sane and joyful through the new year and beyond.


Sure, your kids may ask for the latest toy or gadget this year, but what they really want most is to make memories with you.  Give them the gift of being the best version of yourself, the person God made you to be.  

By the way, if you want more Christmas inspiration, you can check out my brand new book, Holiday Road: a Christmas Devotional.  It’s available in paperback on Amazon but you can download a free sample here.HolidayRoadCover