Good sportsmanship is not a skill that our children are born with. It is something we have to teach them through modeling good sportsmanship ourselves and having some open, honest discussions with them. What are the best ways to pass this skill on to your children?
Modeling good sportsmanship yourself is step one. You cannot expect your children to be good sports if you are standing on the sidelines screaming at the officials or fighting with the coach. It is understandable that emotions run high when you feel your child hasn’t been treated fairly but acting in an inappropriate manner is never the solution. Speak with the coach privately if you have a problem with them and allow them to handle the officials. Your job is to be there in support of your child and to be their encourager.
Talk to your child about winning and losing and the fact that both are going to happen from time to time. Put the emphasis on giving their best effort when they play and having a good time instead of winning.
Have a good attitude when they lose. It is good to sympathize with your child if they are sad but reminding them that the world isn’t ending because of one lost game and making a few jokes is a good way to shift their attention. You can ask them a small list of questions to help them refocus. Did you have a good time? Did you do your best? Do you feel good about how you played today? These are good examples of questions you can ask to shift their attention to what really matters.
You can also give them examples of good sportsmanship in comparison to bad sportsmanship. Learning the difference and applying it may take some time but it will eventually become second nature to your child.
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