How Not to Raise a Kid Who Acts Like John McEnroe

footballWhether it's a board game at home or a match on the soccer field, children know the goal of a game is to win. We can sugarcoat it with all the it's-all-about-having-fun pep we want, but they want to win. There's nothing wrong with that ... until they kick an opponent, throw a tantrum in the goalie box, or hurl the Monopoly board across the room.

No one likes a bad sport, but we all have one lurking inside. As parents, we've got to help our children learn how to squash that bad one and bring out the good sport instead -- the one who doesn't pout when she loses, and accepts both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat with grace ... or least without hurting anyone. Here are 6 ways to help you help your child become a good sport:


1. Lead by example. This is the first rule for any parenting lesson, of course, but it's really important to let them see you lose graciously whether it's in a fight for a parking spot or during a family board game. Everyone loses sometimes, and it's no fun, but it doesn't mean you should lose it emotionally or physically.

2. Embrace the emotion at the right time. Let them know that feeling angry, sad, and disappointed about one's performance or the outcome of a match is inevitable, and that's fine, but there's a time and place to express those feelings. Hitting a punching bag at home is a good way to vent; punching someone on the opposing team is not.

3. Winning ways. Often we work so hard to prevent sore losers that we forget about the art of gracious winning. Let them know that celebrating their accomplishments is okay, but blasting the opponents' mistakes is not cool, and that obnoxious shows of celebration are ... obnoxious.

4. Respect authority. Let them know that while they're not going to agree with every call a referee or umpire makes, they are the ultimate decision makers, and they need to respect those decisions without making a big fuss. Any big disputes should be left to the coaches. This means you sitting there in the stands shouldn't be screaming at the umpire either.

5. Watch and learn. Watch professional and college sports on television and in person with your children. Look for teachable moments and talk about how well an athlete handled a particular situation or how he could have handled it better.

6. Know that everyone loses it sometimes. Sometimes no matter how many good lessons they've learned, kids will still lose their cool. Sports are full of emotion, passion, and adrenaline, but just because they slip up once in awhile doesn't mean you're raising a little John McEnroe.

How do you teach your child to be a good sport?

Image via Brian J. McDermott/Flickr

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