It is a beautiful summer afternoon.
You settle yourself on the bleachers to watch eight year-old Riley play soccer.
The game is a lot of fun. The parents in the stands are friendly and enjoy watching the kids. Riley is dribbling the ball down the field. A player on the opposing team takes the ball from him. He heads off with the ball and with a great kick puts it in the goal.
Riley is furious. He yells at the other player, at the referee and then at his coach.
"It's not fair! That was my ball. Take away the goal, he doesn't deserve it!"
You are humiliated. Could this out-of-control player really be your little Riley? When did he become such a poor sport?
Then you remember that last evening when you were playing a board game and he was losing he dumped the board and all the pieces on the floor and stomped down the hall.
It's time to teach Riley how to be a good sport and a gracious loser. Talk to him about the rules of the game and how he could have reacted in a way that was more appropriate.
After the soccer game tell him what you saw and how you felt about his behaviour on the field. Then ask him what he would have done if he had the chance to take a ball away from another player. Of course he would have done so. It's part of the game.
Talk to his coach and ask him to work with you to help your son turn his behaviour around. The coach needs to know that you saw what happened and that you will back him up when he talks to Riley about what he expects of him on the field.
If the coach decides that Riley has to sit out the rest of the game when he is a poor sport, support him. Riley will likely complain and want you to do something about his being benched. If you tell him that you believe the coach did the right thing, he will really get the message. Then ask him what he needs to do to be permitted to play with his teammates.
Carry on the same consequences at home. When you are playing a board game remind him of the rules of behaviour. It's OK to be upset when you are losing, but not to be disruptive, yell or throw the board and pieces on the floor.
If he continues to be a poor sport, remind him of your expectations. If it continues, calmly pack up the game and let him know you can't play when he is being such a sore loser. If there are other kids also playing the game, he must drop out of the game and can try again next time you play.
Being a good sport is difficult. There are many skills to learn. A good sport waits his turn, accepts coaching advice, avoids arguments with the referee, sticks to rules and continues to play his best even when the team is losing badly. Teach your child how to encourage his peers. Remind him that the game will be more fun if everyone is feeling positive, and he can help make that happen by noticing when a teammate makes a good play. These maxims apply in all game situations. It may be a team sport, a music competition, a board game, a spelling bee or a schoolyard game of marbles.
Learning how to lose graciously, how to play fairly and how to support your teammates and opponents is more important than becoming the world's best player.
. Tri-Cities resident Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author.
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