Sportsmanship can be a hard thing to teach, especially when we have celebrity athletes like Lance Armstrong demonstrating anything but. It can be especially hard to speak to elementary children about the principals of hard work, honesty and fairness when the media tells them one should pursue recognition and fame at any cost.
Tactile children are competitive by nature, and they can be prone to obsessions, which is why it is so important to set them on the right track early on. They have a natural desire to follow the rules! So, the rules you set up during a little league game or even a family game of basketball will be important — setting their moral compass for sportsmanship throughout life. Make sure from an early age that they are clear that what makes a good athlete is not just how well they kick or dribble, but also how fairly and honorably they treat their teammates and the opposition. Make sure when they do something that demonstrates these qualities they also get rewarded, not just for a goal or hoop that is scored.
Auditory children can tend to run off a bit at the mouth, so the importance of getting this trait to be more constructive is the job of an auditory child’s parent. This can be hard to do when they witness parents on the side line behaving badly as they hurl abuse at their own children, the coach and also the referees. Consider talking to the organization or club your child belongs to about sportsmanship rules and make sure everyone is clear about what is and isn’t appropriate verbal behavior for both players and parents. Explain to your child that everyone is learning, all kids learn at their own pace and verbal encouragement is a much better motivator to win than ridicule. This also goes for the opposing team — remember your auditory child is always listening.
Visual children have a natural perfectionist streak, which can come across as a little bossy. They find it hard to tolerate mishaps with themselves, and this can spill onto their teammates. This is also what makes them very driven at their chosen sport. They have no problem practicing and at games will tend to give their all. This can make it hard with a teammate who is less enthusiastic or talented. As they are conscious in a unique way to how others view them, they need to be taught that being a graceful winner makes them look better and more professional than being bossy or gloating. Reward them for being kind, and when they take the time to teach other kids. Their attention to detail makes them excellent at coaching.
Taste and smell children can be the brunt of a lot of bad sportsmanship, as their sensitive nature makes them more inclusive, but less competitive than the other senses. They won’t give their all at a game, which can make other teammates upset, and make them a target for the opposing team. Teach them that sportsmanship is also how you play the game, which means trying your best, even if you’re not very good, miss a few balls or fall over. Remind your child that being part of the team means that you go to practice and you participate in the game. Your taste and smell child needs to understand that supporting the team is as important as kicking the goal themselves.
Sportsmanship is a vital skill for our children to learn, and it is especially important these days to start young before the media and peer pressure takes effect. How you play the game is often more important than winning, although it’s nice to be able to do both.
Priscilla Dunstan, creator of the Dunstan Baby Language, is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Dunstan and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.