How to Teach Your Kids to be Good Sports

Poor sports, sore losers, and gleeful gloaters are no fun.

Cherylyn Feierabend
5-minute read
Episode #138

Poor sports, sore losers, and gleeful gloaters are no fun! I’ve started experiencing the sore-loser syndrome from both of my children. It seems as though everything is a competition. Who can fasten their seatbelt first? Who can drink all their milk first? Who can run the fastest? Who can pick up the most toys? OK I like the last one a lot. Actually, I don’t mind a little healthy competition between siblings; it’s the whining, complaining, and gloating I can do without. I think once my kids are involved in competitive sports, should they choose to be, this could be a problem. I’m looking at ways to help children behave appropriately whether they are a winner or a loser.

Making Sure Your Kids Enjoy the Game is the First Step

Regardless of the activity, I think it’s important to make sure it’s something your child actually wants to do. It’s difficult for kids to have fun when they don’t like the activity. I’m specifically talking about activities your child is engaged in for the sole purpose of having fun. I loved playing softball and was thrilled when my Mom coached my teams. I wanted to go to the games, I looked forward to the practices, and I was a fairly decent player. I wanted to play.

It’s difficult for kids to have fun when they don’t like the activity.
If I decide now that because I loved softball and baseball as a child that my children will enjoy it just as much, I may be wrong. Neither of my children has shown any interest in those sports yet, but they may or may not enjoy them in the future. If you find that your child is unhappy in an activity, please listen. Real life isn’t like the movies. Little Johnny probably isn’t going to suddenly catch the fly ball that causes his team to win the game. It could happen, but chances are slim. If Johnny says he doesn’t like it, says he’s unhappy playing, or if he asks you to do something else, you are probably wasting your time and money forcing him to continue. If Johnny begged you to sign him up, that’s a different story, and of course, you’ll need to let him know that you kept your promise and see if he’s willing to stay the course. Just try to avoid causing bad memories of, “My parents made me do something I hated.”

Encouragement Can Go a Long Way

Once you have your child engaged in an activity he enjoys, encourage him to do his best. Learning a new sport or skill can be frustrating. Whether he is competing against others or trying to improve or compete against himself, always offer positive and encouraging words. Children have a way of wanting to give up when they don’t win. Remind them that the ultimate goal is to have fun. Winning is nice, yes, but it’s also nice when everyone gets an opportunity to have fun. Remind him that everyone also has more fun when the loser is a good sport. If he does lose encourage him to congratulate the winner and let the winner know that he enjoyed the fun game. A gracious winner will appreciate the good sportsmanship. You can encourage your child by praising his best efforts. Even if he’s not doing well, he’s learning and trying. Providing positive feedback will encourage him to keep doing his best and will help him improve. If your child doesn’t catch a ball, you could say, “Good try! You were so close. You are getting better every time!” If your child is frustrated, be sure to acknowledge and understand his frustration, “I know it’s difficult. I can see you are struggling with this, but remember, the goal is to have fun. Everybody has to practice to improve. You are improving every day.” Keep your conversation light, positive, upbeat, and never demanding. The more pressure you put on a child to succeed in an activity meant for enjoyment, the less enjoyment he’s going to get out of it.