Is your kid a good sport? I noticed over the holidays – while spending time with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins – that we did a lot of playing. And when Nicholas lost in a video game, or even missed catching a football in a game of catch, I would hear him start blaming his uncles for throwing the ball too hard, or changing the rules of the game so he would end up winning.
The definition of sportsmanship is conduct and attitude considered as befitting participants in sports, especially fair play, courtesy, striving spirit, and grace in losing. Nicholas, like most kids his age need a lot of help with this! As my son will be turning 5 soon, and will begin to play more organized sports this year, I decided we needed to start working on sportsmanship now! So here are some of my tips for teaching your child on how to be a good sport:
Play By the Rules
So many times when playing with kids, they decide to make up their own rules, especially when they are losing. I saw a perfect example of this when my son was playing Kurplunk with his grandmother. Kurplunk is the game where all the marbles are held by sticks and you are supposed to slowly take the sticks out and not let the marbles drop. Well, as soon as the marbles started to fall for Nicholas, he started to change the rules and say that since he had the most marbles he won.
Explain to your child the rules of any game before you start to help avoid this. When children are aware of the rules before game starts (and maybe given the explanation more than once) it will give them more respect for the game.
When your kids are playing as a team, it is important to teach that teamwork is also a way to show that you are a good sport. Just as kids like to win, they also like to be the star – the one that is scoring for the team. Praise your child as much as if they scored the goal, when they assist another in scoring a goal. This will help them learn that playing as a team is just as important to help your team win.
Lead By Example
Remember, your kids are learning through you. Try to say positive things about your team, even when they are playing poorly. Your children will remember this. My husband and I do not like the same football team (I am an Eagles fan, he likes the Giants) so there have been some “loving arguments” about football in our house. As I make my resolutions with my son today, I will say “good game” to my husband and his Giants, who won the NFC East Sunday night (no matter how hard it hurts). I hope to show my son that I’m also a good sport.
Be a Good Loser
No one likes to lose, and you really need to be taught how to do it gracefully. Talk to your child about how they feel when they lose. Be honest explaining to them that you don’t like to lose either, but sometimes it will happen. For competitive kids (like mine), the expression “It’s not whether you won the game but how you played” might take some time for them to understand. But if you keep reinforcing the idea, they’ll eventaully catch on.
When kids don’t know what to say that’s usually when they say the wrong things – so teach them that no matter whether they win or lose to ALWAYS say “good game” to their competitors. Give them ideas on positive things to say to the winner, like “Nice catch!” or “Can you teach me that move?”
Learning how to be a good sport is just like anything we teach our kids. Like riding a bike, learning to tie their shoes, or potty training, it will take time and practice to get it right. Play lots of games with your kids, don’t always let them win, and help them develop good sportsmanship habits.