When my sons played baseball, the parents had to sign an agreement every Spring that stated that we would do the following – sit quietly on the bleachers, not yell to our kids on the field, “Hey, Connor, stop picking grass and watch for the ball!” and, under no circumstances, get over-wrought if/when the kids (invariably) lost. Heaven forbid our kids feel badly about themselves or their teammates for not winning! Seriously! If everyone in the game is a winner, then what is the FUN IN WINNING???? But winning is everything in our society! And the “take no prisoners”…”break the kid’s nose with your lax stick and keep playing”…”row until you puke” attitude is pervasive! And where do our kids learn this philosophy of “win at all costs” or “hang your head in deepest shame”?…Us.
All too often, coaches choose winning over building character and unsportsmanlike behavior – actually, really pretty gross behavior – is rampant in professional sports! So what is a WISE parent to do? As parents, we have a responsibility to instill quality principles of sportsmanship right from the start. Here is a four-step process to get you moving towards the goal!
Step One: Know yourself well. Before you can expect your children to show good sportsmanship, you need to take a good, hard look at how important winning is to you. Do you throw the chip bowl at the TV when the Steelers miss a field goal? Do you find yourself cheering for the winner of Survivor? When you’re in the grocery store line and you see your child’s coach, do you proceed to have a 45-minute strategy “talk”? You may feel like your child’s success is your success. It isn’t.
Step Two: Emphasize effort, not outcome. It sure is easier to say, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” – than to put it into practice. The goal is to emphasize the process rather than the final product. This is true in all aspects of life – the strategies used to study over the B+ or the number of assists over the number of goals scored. Get in the habit of praising steps in the right direction rather than the end result. Try saying, “Wow, you are really improving your swing”…or “I have noticed you seem to be spending more time taking notes from your reading.”
Step Three: Don’t fall into the parent trap. Remember that you are the parent. You are NOT the coach. Unless you are the parent and the coach – then this is particularly CRITICAL WISDOM. Your child models behavior after seeing your sportsmanship behaviors. Ask yourself…
– Do you coach or criticize your (or your neighbor’s) children from the sidelines,
– Argue with the referees
– Tell the coach what to do or criticize the coach’s decisions
– Trash-talk the opposing team
– Use profanity
These negative behaviors communicate to your child that it is okay to be disrespectful and can turn him or her into a SORE LOSER!
Step Four: Keep winning and losing in perspective. There is still going to be disappointment in defeat. Allow yourself and your child to feel the disappointment that comes with losing. It’s only after experiencing these feelings that your child can move on and figure out what lessons to take from the defeat. The key to learning is going through the process of falling, getting back up, brushing yourself off, and moving forward with new information.
So let your child fail…praise her by highlighting good sportsmanship…point it out whenever and wherever you can! Being a LOSER just might be pretty WISE after all!
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