After having fun and keeping fit, one of the most important reasons to play a sport is to develop good sportsmanship. How can you help your child develop good sportsmanship? Here are a few ideas.
Keep in mind that teaching these skills, attitudes, and behaviors takes time, practice, role models – positive and negative as well as reinforcement.
When you’re playing a board game or Go Fish and your child loses, how does he or she handle it? Many children, especially young children, are so focused on the goal – winning – that if they lose, they inevitably will have a temper tantrum. Older children may also pout.
If this happens, remove the game and remove the child from the situation. Once she has calmed down, talk to your child, acknowledge her feelings and remind her that it’s not so much about winning or losing; it’s about having fun. Then try to redirect and talk about previous successes. “I know you feel bad that you lost this game, but you won two in a row earlier and we had fun laughing together. It’s not fun if the same person wins all of the time. You had fun riding your bike this morning,too, didn’t you? Should we go ride bikes for a while?”
Being a Good Role Model
Children always learn from example. Whether you’re a good or bad example, your child will pick up on your tone, your comments, and your actions – everything you do will influence your child on some level. Check yourself and be sure that you are respectful of the coaches, referees, and of course, other players on their team and opposing teams.
The Art of Being Humble
If your child happens to excel at the sport, teach your child to be humble. Remind the child to praise all members of her team and her coach who helped, and that there is no “I” in team. Teamwork and humility are keys to good sportsmanship.
Cheering Others On
It’s important to cheer others on and encourage them. Sometimes there’s a kid who always strikes out, but it’s still helpful to be positive and encouraging. And when they do succeed, your child can fist bump them all the way to victory.
Was it on the line or was it out? It’s calls like these that cause the biggest tussles. If there’s no referee and it’s a low-key game, remind your child that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game and good sportsmanship is part of playing the game well.
Picking Up Responsibility Too
At the end of the game, encourage your child to pick up after her/himself as well as a few others. Encourage him to pick up equipment; help put away mats, bats, balls, etc. Reaching beyond the minimum expectations helps to build character and ethics.
Cheating Is Not Always Intentional
The other side of being honest is keeping calm if and when someone else cheats. It happens. Or maybe it’s just a matter of perception. Whatever the case, reiterate to your child that it’s important to step back and be the bigger person. Teach your child to report an incident a coach or official. After that, it’s out of your child’s hands. The decision that the adults make is final.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a ref makes a bad call. Maybe he didn’t see it. Maybe the coach missed something. Maybe your child missed something. Realize people make mistakes. Most people are trying their best – move on.
Good sportsmanship is an important skill your child can begin to learn as soon as he or she is able to participate in games. They will need your guidance, and it will pay off. Their good sportsmanship will help them on the field, in school, in business and in nearly every aspect of their daily lives.