Children have to be taught how to be a good sport. And, how to be a loser. We live in a very competitive world and children are taught directly and indirectly that winning is the goal. And while this is a worthwhile goal, it isn't always possible to win and children have to be able to handle loss as well as a win. These lessons should start when your child is young, with family game times, and will continue on into team sports as she grows. Parents need to set the example and be good sports themselves and they need to remember that this life lesson carries over into other areas of life, such as not getting a grade that they strived for or later in life, not being picked for a job they interviewed for.
Here are some tips for parents when teaching their kids to be good sports:
First, enjoy the game. Encourage your child to do his best, develop discipline, not give up when things are hard, and when they aren't the best person on the team or when the team isn't winning help them know that everyone contributes in their own way. Help them to understand that "practice makes perfect", winning isn't everything, and to stick with it to the end and not quit in the middle. It just may be that this particular sport is not right for them and after they have tried it, there may be another sport that is a better fit for your child.
Second, there are rules and rituals for every game. Encourage your child to sing the national anthem, shake hands with the other team before and after the game, respect the referees and coaches, and follow the rules of the game. Recognize that both teams are making their best effort.
Third, demonstrate good sportsmanship yourself. How many times have we heard about parents attacking the coach or referee, and brawling with other parents? What kind of message do you think this sends to your child? And if you witness other parents using this kind of behavior, talk to your child and explain why this isn't right and that is shows poor sportsmanship.
Last, be a valued teammate. Help your child learn and follow the rules, control their temper, respect everyone, don't blame others, learn from their mistakes, play an honest game, fulfill basic obligations such as going regularly to practice and being on time, and keep ready all supplies needed for the game.
While these tips are geared towards group sports, they apply to other interactions where winning and losing are part of the experience, like playing board games with the family or friends, playing video games with friends, and working on group projects at school. Not everyone can be first, not everyone can win, and the way that your child handles loss can help bring about his success in life.
Remember, parents are their child's first teacher.
If you are looking for parenting or child development books, you can find a great selection at your local libraries in Vineland or Millville, or head to downtown Millville and check out Bogart's Books on High Street.