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Winning feels great, true. But that does not mean that losing should make us feel bad.In many instances, children who do not win end up sulking, throwing a tantrum and making a scene, vowing to never play that game or sport again. As parents, we can help our children redefine what winning is. Show them that sports and games are for fun, exercise and team building and that you should be proud just because you participated. "For a 3- or 4-year-old, the world is very black and white," explains Wendy Middlemiss, Ph.D., associate professor of education psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton. "Preschoolers tend to think that if they play to win, then they should win, and that makes it hard to come to terms with losing."* Examples of bad sportsmanship include pouting when you lose, gloating when you win, bullying the other team, only having fun when you win, sabotaging the other team's game, yelling at the referee and blaming others. Children usually learn good sportsmanship from their parents and coaches. It is important for you to encourage your child to play fair, have fun and support the team while working on their skills. Losing gracefully is not the easiest thing to teach but here are a few tips for fostering good sportsmanship.
- Applaud good playing regardless of which team it is
- Follow the rules - it may be tempting to cheat to win a game but it is important for your child to know that they should not break the rules. Follow the rules and teach your children that it is important to do so. This will help them in different areas of their life at a later stage.
- Model good behaviour - shout words of encouragement not directions from the sidelines. Needless to say, you will be quite excited watching your children play but screaming directions at children, their coach or the other team's coach is not advisable.
- Don't focus too much on who won and who lost - try to discuss your child's individual performance with them and ask them how they think they did. If there is an area they feel they are weak in then encourage them to practice. Encourage them by telling them where you really thought they did well.
- Play fair and shake hands - teach your child to shake hands with the other team before and after a game and to always play fairly.
- Let your child lose sometimes - when you are playing games with your child, don't always let them win. Of course, if your child is always winning then one day when they lose a game, it will be a complete shock to their system and they might not handle it very well. Guide them through their first experiences of losing and let them know there is nothing wrong with it.