Parenting Solutions: Poor Sport (page 4)

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

What To Expect By Stages And Ages

Preschooler   Because these little folks are so self-centered, they perceive fairness as what meets their needs. It is also why three- and four-year-olds are generally poor losers. Four- and five-year-olds play fair because adults tell them they should. "I'll throw Ken the ball because my coach says so." At this point, actual winning isn't important (unless the adults make it so); it's all about fun and getting your share of turns.

School Age   Kids at this age see sportsmanship as something that should be returned. "If he's a good sport, I'll be one." Early school agers are passionate about equality and ensuring that everything is "even Steven." Eight- and nine-year-olds begin to consider the needs and feelings of their teammates and even their opponents. As competitive sports increase, kids become more focused on winning. Before age nine, most kids don't make the distinction between effort and ability. Beware: competition can be quite stressful to kids this age. Losing in front of peers can be humiliating and stressful.

Tween   A true sense of justice begins to emerge, but competition can be fierce. Stress and peer pressure mount, and tweens can be quite upset with bad calls or unfair referees. They can also extend favors to teammates without expecting anything in return. Beware: by age thirteen, 70 percent of kids who play league sports never play again because it is no longer fun.76

One Parent's Answer

A mom from Houston shares:

My son always used to quit games before the end. Candyland, soccer, bowling—any game—he'd quit. He has a short attention span, but even so, he was getting the reputation of a bad sport. So I'd set an oven timer before any game for a specific play time (not too long), and I only gradually increased the time length. I told him he had to play until the buzzer went off. It worked like a charm! No more quitting midstream and a major turnaround in his sportsmanship.

More Helpful Advice

How to Win at Sports Parenting: Maximizing the Sports Experience for You and Your Child, by Jim and Janet Sundberg

Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: Games and Activities to Teach Sharing, Caring, and Compromise, by Charlie Steffens and Spencer Gorin

Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way: Ensuring the Best Experience for Your Kids in Any Sport, by Cal Ripken Jr. and Rick Wolff

The Cheers and the Tears: A Healthy Alternative to the Dark Side of Youth Sports Today, by Shane Murphy

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