Helping our children learn to show good sportsmanship is an important task. However, as with most values we teach our children, they do not seem to learn it by just talking to them. It’s one of those “caught rather than taught.” Thus, we as parents and adults need to model the good sportsmanship behavior we want our children to show.
This is the time of year when lots of young children are starting to play different sports and learning the basics of good sportsmanship. Parents can best teach their children to be good sports by:
– Modeling good sportsmanship.
– Praising children for the positive aspects of their performance. Even if they did not do well, find something they did better than last time and praise them for it or say, “You’ll do better next time.” Parents should never make fun or yell at any child for something he/she did while participating in sports.
– Parents should not boo or use inappropriate language when the other team makes a good play. Help your child learn to appreciate the talents of others. More importantly, parents should applaud the efforts of all players – no matter who wins. If other parents are showing unsportsmanlike behavior, talk to your child and help them understand what appropriate sportsmanship is.
– Respect authority. Parents should support the umpire or referee. If a parent disagrees with the call or something happens that is unfair, he/she should work through official channels, always acting in a respectful and noncritical manner. Do not let your feelings of the moment allow you to do something you may regret later. Model self-control and help your children learn self-control. I know of children who have been embarrassed by the actions of their parent.
– If your child shows unsportsmanlike behavior, talk to them about what they should have done. Then make sure they correct themselves if they are in the same or similar situation in the future.
– Encourage competition that is fair. Competition makes individuals want to do the very best they can so that they can achieve their goals. Parents should not encourage, support or condone dishonesty or cheating for the sake of winning. A team should win because they worked hard and performed well.
Let your child know that you love them unconditionally, no matter how they perform on the playing field. Besides gaining a skill when playing team sports your child is learning sportsmanship and how to be a team member. These are important for your child to learn to assure their success in the future.
Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator with Ohio State University Extension Fayette County.