Learning about good sportsmanship provides an ideal opportunity for your child to develop important life skills such as character, teamwork, fairness, discipline, encouragement, resiliency, humility, and respect. Many children have trouble coping with winning and losing. They gloat when they win. They cheat or change the rules to try to make sure they come out on top. They cry, sulk, or accuse others of cheating if they lose. They quit in the middle of a game if things aren’t going their way. If any of these examples sound familiar, your child may need some guidance about sportsmanship. Here are some helpful tips you can use to raise your son or daughter to be a good sport.
Talk to your child about sportsmanship. Explaining it as simply as possible will help your child understand and embrace sportsmanship. You may want to explain it in terms of the Golden Rule. For example, you might say, “Sportsmanship is about treating other people in a game the way you want to be treated." Start talking to your child about sportsmanship and teaching positive behaviors at a young age.
What kind of sport are you? Kids pick up on what is acceptable by watching how their parents behave. Give careful thought to how you respond when your favorite team loses or when you miss that shot on the golf course. Look for opportunities to exemplify gracious winning and losing, such as encouraging others for their success or applauding a rival when they make a particularly good play.
Play games with your child. Sportsmanship involves learning how to have grace under pressure and developing a sense of fairness and equality. These behaviors need to be cultivated, so join your child in playing games. As you play, take this opportunity to model good sportsmanship. Show your respect for the rules and the other players. And don’t let them win all the time. Learning how to lose is important in developing sportsmanship.
Sign them up for activities that emphasize teamwork. Soccer, basketball, and softball are classic examples of team sports that can teach sportsmanship. But it doesn’t have to be a sport in order to teach teamwork and sportsmanship. Orchestra, dance, and theater are great team activities that can teach sportsmanship. Success doesn’t necessarily mean winning. Success also means each individual doing their part to the best of their ability and seeing it come together as a whole.
Focus on fun. Whether they’re playing soccer or Monopoly, the key is keeping the attention on fun. Your kids should be enjoying themselves, making friends, learning new skills, and discovering how to play cooperatively with teammates. Winning and losing shouldn’t be the focus.
“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.” This quote from legendary basketball coach John Wooden defines what sportsmanship is all about. While it’s great for your child to excel in sports, dance, theater, art, or whatever else interests him, it’s even greater to excel in character.
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