How can I help my child be a better sport?

Most parents want their child to be a good winner and loser. They want him to try his best in every situation and accept any outcome with grace. They have a strong stake in his sense of sportsmanship. They believe his behavior reflects on them, and if he’s a poor sport, they’re not only disappointed and angry, but embarrassed.

Kids like to win games, have the highest grades, get the starring roles, be first in line, win elections, and get prizes. Most of the time, though, a child is not number one. Defeat and mistakes are inevitable. Occasionally a coach or teacher will give a good sportsmanship award or credit a child with trying. But there are few rewards for those who lose.

A child who is a poor sport loses control easily. He may be moody or angry. He may have outbursts and throw a tennis racket, tear up a paper with a poor grade, kick a chair, or curse at an opponent. He also may be disrespectful to a teacher, counselor, umpire, coach, or parent as he vents his frustration. On a team he may belittle his peers: “Why can’t you hit the ball?” “What kind of throw was that?” “It’s your fault we’re losing the game.”

Sometimes a child will get down on himself and question his abilities: “I’m never entering another stupid art show again.” “I always lose the camper contests. I must be the worst kid here.” “I’ll never get on a select soccer team.”

While no one likes to lose, there are several reasons why some kids become poor sports. A child may have unreasonable expectations and become upset when he fails to live up to them. His parents may encourage his high standards by overemphasizing winning: “I hope you beat this kid because I hate the way he plays and I can’t stand his father.”

Parents may be impossible to please: “You’re not trying hard enough.” “I know you could have won the science fair if you had put more time into it.” “Too bad you came in second.” Some parents don’t set firm enough limits on their child’s displays of bad sportsmanship. They encourage his misbehavior by not trying to stop it. Poor sportsmanship is sometimes a sign of low self-esteem. A child who lacks confidence may get easily upset when he doesn’t do well. Lack of sportsmanship may also indicate that he’s in over his head, frustrated because he’s competing in situations where he doesn’t stand a fair chance. A child who doesn’t enjoy competition may not react well no matter how much support he receives.

Most pool sports are aware of being out of control and would like to behavior. However, they don’t know how to handle difficult situations. They need help and guidance when they make a mistake or lose a competition.

Tell your child about how important good sportsmanship is. Talk about how other people- friends, acquaintances, famous competitors—react to success and adversity. “She lost the election, but she still promised to support her opponent.” “When that tennis player threw his racket and cursed, everybody booed.” Let him know that it’s also important to be a good winner, one who is gracious rather than cocky.

Before he enters a competition, remind him about his behavior: “You look better when you show control.” “Have fun.” “I don’t want to hear you yell or complain.” Set limits on his negative actions and discuss consequences: “If you keep throwing your helmet, I won’t let you play.” “If you can’t control your emotions, you’ll have to quit the swim team.” Praise signs of good sportsmanship. If he handles himself well reward him with a hug, a pack of baseball cards, a note, or a treat.

Evaluate the competitions he participates in. Perhaps they’re too stressful. Some kids are spurred on by competition, while others are upset by too much of it. Your child’s sportsmanship may improve in a less intense atmosphere.

If you suspect that his attitude is rooted in a poor self-image, think of ways to increase his confidence. Spend more time with him, have fun together, encourage him in all his activities.

Don’t let winning or losing affect your love and acceptance of him in any way.

Try to be a good sport yourself. Do you react angrily when things don’t go your way at work, at home, on the road, or during leisure time? Do you congratulate others on their successes? Are you gracious when you succeed? Do you put too much pressure on your child? If you change your attitude, you are likely to see a difference in his behavior.

Talk to coaches or teachers about helping your child become a better sport. Suggest they hold a team or class meeting on the values and characteristics of good sportsmanship. Look for books or articles on the subject to share with your child.

At times, he may have a legitimate reason for feeling “things aren’t fair—I shouldn’t have lost.” An umpire may make a bad call. A teacher may make a mistake. Another player may cheat. One girl became upset in gym class as the teacher continually called on the most skilled girls to demonstrate volleyball techniques. When she asked why, the teacher said, “I don’t want the other girls to be embarrassed if they miss the ball.” Your child may have a right to complain, but he should learn, with your help and guidance, how to handle situations without acting like a bad sport.

Picture Credit : Google