Parenting Solutions: Poor Sport

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 31, 2010

The Problem

Red Flags

Changes rules midstream; can't accept defeat; blames others, makes excuses, cries, or loses temper; criticizes others

The Change to Parent For

Your child learns the skills of good sportsmanship as well as the crucial lesson that winning isn't everything—it's how you play the game.

Question: "My eight year-old is one of the best baseball players in the league. But if his team loses he throws a fit and blames everyone else. At this rate all anyone will remember is his poor sportsmanship. What can I do to help him?"

Answer: You can start by pointing out traits of "good losers." While watching the Olympics, a quiz, or even a reality TV show, say, "There's only going to be one winner. Let's watch to see what the losers do. See—they're shaking hands with their opponents." "That was a tough competition. Did you notice how some of the kids acted who lost? They were complaining that the event wasn't fair. They sure didn't act like good sports." If possible, tune into a golf, basketball, or tennis match and point out some of the best losers (and winners) in the sports, such as Michele Wei, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer. Then insist that your child replace his "blame game" antics with a new way to lose gracefully and display good sportsmanship, or he will not be allowed to play a game. (And if it comes to that, follow through on your word so that he learns his lesson.)

Pay Attention to This!

The National Association of Sports Officials says that it receives two to three calls a week from an umpire or referee who has been verbally abused or assaulted by a parent or spectator.73 Youth sports programs in at least 163 cities are so concerned about the trend of poor parent sportsmanship that they now require parents to sign a pledge of proper conduct while attending their kids' games. How are you and the other parents in your community behaving at sporting events?

Pay Attention to This!

Think Steroids Are Just for Teens?

A survey found that kids as young as ten (fifth graders!) are taking illegal steroids to do better in sports. And it isn't just boys who are partaking: use among tween girls is almost as prevalent as it is among boys (2.8 percent of boys and 2.6 percent of girls).74 Steroids can harm the liver, stunt growth, and cause a host of other long-term ailments. Young bodies are particularly vulnerable. Talk to your kids about the dangers of steroids. The main reason kids say they are abusing is to please their parents (who hope their kids get an athletic scholarship). Curb that tongue! 

One Simple Solution

How to Lose Gracefully

Kids must learn to accept victory and defeat gracefully. These steps teach how to lose with poise:

  1. Look cool and poised. Turn off your upset look and put on a "good-sport" look. A poised loser is cool, calm, and collected.
  2. Congratulate the victor. Hold your head high, put on a smile, and walk toward the victor. In a sincere tone say, "Good game!" or "Congratulations!" or "That was impressive!"
  3. Shake hands. Offer your hand and shake each opponent's hand firmly. Give a high five or a pat on the back to your team members.
  4. Walk off the field with your head still high. Do not make any negative comments under your breath or out loud. No crying, whining, or pouting.
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