Many of our favorite American pastimes revolve around competition. Schools and clubs rank students’ performances and high achievers often receive trophies, awards and prizes. As parents, we are often left wondering whether all this competition is healthy for our young children.
A bit of playful competition provides children with a healthy opportunity to learn and practice social skills while bonding with others on a team. However, it’s important for parents to keep the focus on having fun and to emphasize what it means to embody good sportsmanship.
Here are five parenting tips to help your child grow into a good sport:
- Lead by example. You are your child’s role model, and you teach your child how to behave through your own actions. Set an example by showing your child how to have fun while being kind and respectful to an opponent. As you’re watching your favorite team on TV, remember that little eyes and ears are paying attention — especially when the game isn’t going your way!
- Talk about teamwork. Look for opportunities to demonstrate and discuss teamwork. Pitching in together to clean the playroom or working side by side in a garden highlight how everyone can work as a team. This concept helps children have a team-focused mindset instead of a “me versus you” mentality.
- Encourage kindness and empathy. Coach your little ones to pay attention to how others are feeling. Teach them to offer congratulations to those who are happy about an achievement and to show compassion to others who are sad.
- Take turns. The idea of allowing others their turn is a critical social skill that requires higher level executive functioning — and it takes practice. Before your little one joins a T-ball team, for example, practice taking turns at home through board games or by waiting in line at the store. Talk about taking turns as you wait: “It can be hard to wait our turn, but the more we practice, the easier it gets!”
- Celebrate with grace. Help your child understand that while it’s a wonderful feeling to win, it’s important not to rub it in and make others feel worse. Gently guide your child to respect an opponent by saying “Good game!” or “You really played well!” before doing a victory dance.
Looking for more tips on raising children to be kind? Check out:
- How to Teach Your Children About Cooperation
- 4 Ways to Raise a Good Friend
- Fostering a Sense of Belonging in Every Child
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