Teaching Good Attitudes Through Televised Sports
Playing sports can be a great way to teach your children good values, including teamwork, sportsmanship, and fair play. You may even have a young athlete or sports fan in the family who loves to watch college or professional sports on TV.
But you might find that the good values you try to instill in your child on the playing field—or in other environments—aren't translating well over television. Professional players and coaches might not always display the same good attitudes toward other team members or sense of fair play that you expect from your own child. Instances of professional players cheating at sports—such as using drugs to enhance their performance—are often well-publicized. Your child may even witness his or her sports idol throwing a tantrum, starting a fight, or bad-mouthing the referee.
What To Know
Scenes such as these can go against what you, as a parent or caring adult, try to teach your child about the importance of good sportsmanship. It might send the message that "winning is everything" and that it's okay to resort to cheating, violence, or other negative behavior to get what you want. This message is reinforced if your child sees one of these athletes getting a "shoe deal" or earning millions of dollars through other celebrity endorsements..that you can be "rewarded" even if you behave in an unseemly manner.
What To Do
But televised sports can also present a good opportunity to talk to your child about the importance of having a good attitude both on the playing field and elsewhere in life. The next time your child watches sports on TV, sit down and watch with him. Ask him if he likes a particular team or player, and why. If the two of you see a player being disrespectful, ask your child what he or she thinks about that. Your child may like a particular player because of his or her skills, but it's important to emphasize that athletic skill doesn't mean that a player is allowed to taunt others or throw tantrums. Being a team player means working well with others and appreciating everybody's efforts in the game. After all, not even a star football player could play an entire game all by himself.
You can also listen to what the commentators say. Do they frown on bad sportsmanship, do they laugh at it, or do they even seem to encourage it? How do the coaches behave—are they "gracious winners"? Do they have a bad attitude about losing? Let your child know that winning and losing are all part of playing sports, and that nobody can win all of the time. Point out when players get benched (or otherwise penalized) for negative conduct to show that, even in professional sports, there is a price to pay for having a bad attitude.
Look at your own attitudes about sports on TV, as well. Do you yell or curse at the TV when your team isn't doing well? Try to temper your own behavior so that you can model a calmer, more sportsmanlike attitude to your child.
It's also worthwhile to do some research. Some professional athletes are positive role models for kids—on the field or in their personal lives. Their good deeds might not be as well-publicized as other players' negative antics, but you can point out athletes who make a special effort to be good sports or to encourage teamwork. For example, to counteract the news stories of athletes cheating at sports by using drugs, you could find some athletes who speak out against illegal drug use and stress the value of fair play.
Children learn by example, whether it's the example you set or the example of a sports figure on TV. Having a good attitude and being a team player extends to other areas in life, and by showing these qualities in your own behavior, you help teach them to your child. So involve your child in cooking an evening meal to help reinforce your message about teamwork. Play a game with him or her that emphasizes taking turns and sharing. Let him or her see you lose and still be a good sport about it. There is no better way to show your child that attitude—not winning—is everything.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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