After having fun and keeping fit, one of the most important reasons to play a sport is to develop good sportsmanship. How can you help your child develop good sportsmanship? Here are a few ideas.

Helping Your Child Develop Sportsmanship

Start Young. When you’re playing a board game or Go Fish and your child loses, how does he or she handle it? Many toddlers are so focused on the goal – winning – that if they lose, they inevitably will have a temper tantrum.

If this happens with your toddler, remove the game and remove the child from the situation. Once she has calmed down, talk to your child, acknowledge her feelings and remind her that it’s not so much about winning or losing; it’s about having fun. Then try to redirect and talk about previous successes. “I know you feel bad that you lost the game, but you did such a great job riding your bike this morning, didn’t you? Should we go ride bikes?”

Be a Good Role Model. Children always learn from example. Whether you’re a good or bad example, your child will pick up on your tone, your comments, and your actions – everything you do will influence your child on some level. Check yourself and be sure that you are respectful of the coaches, referees, and of course, other players on their team and opposing teams.

Help Your Child Be Humble. If your child happens to excel at the sport, teach your child to be humble. Remind the child to praise all members of her team and her coach who helped, and that there is no “I” in team. Teamwork and humility are keys to good sportsmanship.

Cheer Others On. It’s important to cheer others on and encourage them. Sometimes there’s a kid who always strikes out, but it’s still helpful to be positive and encouraging. And when they do succeed, your child can fist bump them all the way to victory.

Be Honest. Was it on the line or was it out? It’s calls like these that cause the biggest tussles. If there’s no referee and it’s a low-key game, remind your child that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Pick Up. At the end of the game, encourage your child to pick up after herself. Encourage her to pick up equipment; help put away mats, bats, balls, etc.

Cheaters Never Win. 
The other side of being honest is keeping calm when and if someone else cheats. It happens. Or maybe it’s just a matter of perception. Whatever the case, reiterate to your child that it’s important to step back and be the bigger person. Sometimes a ref makes a bad call. Maybe he didn’t see it. Maybe the coach missed something. Realize people make mistakes. Most people are trying their best – move on.

Good sportsmanship is an important skill your child can begin to learn as soon as he or she is able to participate in games. They will need your guidance, and it will pay off. Their good sportsmanship will help them on the field, in school, in business and in nearly every aspect of their daily lives.