Teaching Good Sportsmanship

Every child has to learn how to be a good sport, and in turn, a good loser. Whether your child is playing a team sport like soccer or a board game at home there will come a time when they don’t win. And how they handle that loss will be extremely important. With seven children of my own ranging in age from 1 year to 27 years old, I’ve learned my fair share about sportsmanship over the years. Here are my tips for raising a child who is a team player and a good sport when faced with a loss.

Do Your Best: Teach your child that his best is plenty good enough, and that instead of trying to always win, he should instead focus on trying to do his best and trying to improve each and every time he plays a game. Often too much emphasis is put on the win, when it should be spread out. We need more emphasis on: building each other up, being patient, playing as a team, working hard, being supportive, improving, etc. As parents we can work to switch the emphasis from “the win” to all of the other wonderful things that are learned through games and sports.

Discussing the Loss: When your child loses a game, discuss it with them and let them know it’s okay to lose some; nobody wins every game they play. Share stories of your own losses and how you handled those difficulties in your life. Discuss ways in which you learned to be a good sport. Encourage your child to talk about their own goals, how they’ve improved over time, what they did well in any certain game and more. I believe in an open line of communication between parents and children; you’ll be able to share your own wisdom, and you’ll likely be surprised by what your children tell you, too.

Rewarding a Positive Attitude: As your child learns to be a good sport it’ll be important to reward their positive attitude – when they have one. Don’t let an opportunity go by for you to genuinely let your child know you’re proud of them. And when your child gracefully loses a game while being kind and supportive to their teammates, that would likely be one of those times. Tell your child you’re proud and let them know exactly why; then reward them by letting them choose dessert or pick a weekend activity for the family.

Consequences for Unsportsmanlike Conduct: On the other hand, there will probably be times when your child loses a game and behaves in an unsportsmanlike manner. Or there might be a time when your child is rude to a teammate or to another team. This behavior might merit a consequence. After the consequence is delivered and your child cools off, I recommend talking to the child about their behavior in detail. Ask them to come up with alternative methods for handling such a situation in the future.

Games and sports teach us a lot about life, and therefore teaching children to be good sports is invaluable but also difficult. I hope these tips will help your family as they’ve helped mine in the past.

Happy parenting!


Daddy Nickell


Daddy Nickell, father of 7, founder of Daddyscrubs.com and the Daddyscrubs parenting blog.

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