How to Teach Children and Teens About Winning and Losing

Many children get involved in sports at a young age and continue through adolescence or adulthood. One of the most important aspect of playing sports as a child is learning about winning and losing. While children may want to concentrate entirely on the outcome of the game, it’s important to teach them about what really matters – having fun! Here are some tips for parents to teach their children the right way to handle winning and losing.

1. Start young. With kids joining soccer teams at age three, they are exposed to winning and losing at a very young age. Since they are so impressionable at this age, you should instill the value of playing sports that goes beyond wins and losses. For kids under age 8, playing sports is all about social interaction and having fun, no matter what the score is at the end of the game. Parents and coaches should emphasize the fun aspect to take away the pressure of winning and losing.

2. Set a good example. Children often look to their parents and other adults to learn how to act in certain situations. When playing sports or games at home, don’t let your children win all the time so that they can gently learn how to handle losing. Teach them to congratulate winners rather than being angry or making up excuses. At your child’s games, show respect for the other team and parents, even if you’re a competitive person. You may have to work at keeping yourself calm when the ref makes a bad call or the coach speaks harshly to your child.

3. Encourage them to do their best. We all want our children to do well and win games. However, it’s important to teach them to celebrate humbly without bragging. When you child does win, teach him to be a humble winner by showing good sportsmanship to the other team. Rather than emphasizing the fact that your child won a game, praise their personal improvements and performance.

4. Help them learn from losses. Encouraging your child to do his or her best will help them grow in self-esteem, even when they don’t win a game. Help them learn to recognize their personal improvements after each game, no matter what the outcome. Teach them that striving to do their best and having fun is much more important than a score.

5. Find a good coach. Your child’s coach is another important role model who will affect his perception of winning and losing. Before enrolling your child in a youth league or school team, try to discern its philosophy on sportsmanship. Find out about policies related to keeping score, encounters with opponents, and player or parent behavior. You should also try to find out about the coach’s goals for the team – is he bent on winning, or does he simply want the kids to have fun? You might even try speaking with other parents who are already involved in the team.

6. Teach according to your child’s personality. A child’s temperament can significantly affect the way he/she learns about the values of sportsmanship. If your child is emotional, teach him about calming down and seeing the positive side of things when he gets upset. A conscientious child will aim for perfection, and so it’s important to help her set positive goals to improve. An aggressive child make take his frustration out on other players, so it’s important to set clear behavior rules and consequences if he doesn’t follow them. A social child should be taught the value of cooperating with her teammates and relying on them to stay positive.

Brenda Lawrence is a physical therapist whose specialty is sports rehabilitation. She owns the site for students interested in a career as a physical therapy aide.

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