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How do I teach my kids good sportsmanship?

Michele Borba
Psychology
Call out poor sportsmanship. Any time your kid exhibits a “poor loser attitude” (for example: makes an excuse, blames others, can’t accept criticism, boos the other team, criticizes his coach, teacher, sibling, or parent, call him or her  on it and let him know that kind of attitude isn’t allowed. Explain that she must be considerate of other people’s feelings and if she is not, she may not participate. If he exhibits an attitude with others, “yellow card” him and take him aside to correct the action right away. If your kid displays any aggressive or uncivil behavior-such as booing, hitting, or cheating-remove him or her immediately from the activity.

Stress good sportsmanship. The only way your kid will learn that winning isn’t everything (especially when people remember only that you were a lousy loser) is by you stressing sportsmanship over victory.  Some families have a personal motto that that represents their attitude such as: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.”  “If you can’t play nicely, you don’t play.” “Winning isn’t everything.” “What people remember most is how you played the game?” 

Look for teachable moments to point out right and wrong ways to handle defeat. One lesson every kid needs to learn is that everyone suffers setbacks as well as victories, and sensitize him to others’ feelings. While watching American Idol, a quiz show, or some other sporting event on television with your child say: “They’ve worked for years for this. They’ve practiced for hours. Let’s watch to see if we can tell how they feel. Look: they’re shaking hands with their opponents.”

Teach how to lose gracefully. Everyone makes mistakes–it’s how we learn. But some kids don’t know how to handle their defeat and lose gracefully. And because they lack that skill, they often look like poor losers. So teach your child the skill of how to lose gracefully. For example: “Good debate!”  “That was close.” “Let’s do it again.” “I gave it my best.” “Let’s try again tomorrow.” “You game for a rematch?”  Help him practice at home so he can confidently say them to his peers.

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

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The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

Today show's Michele Borba's cures for difficult childhood behaviors In this down-to-earth guide, parenting expert Michele Borba offers advice for dealing with children's difficult behavior and hot...
Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Stress good sportsmanship. The only way your kids will learn that winning isn’t everything is by you stressing good sportsmanship attitude, such as: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.”

Look for teachable moments to point out right and wrong ways to handle defeat. One lesson every kid needs to learn is that everyone suffers setbacks as well as victories, and sensitize him/her to others’ feelings. 

Teach how to lose gracefully. Everyone makes mistakes – it’s how and what we learn from the mistakes.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.