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Teaching kids good sportsmanship

Competition is built into the structure of sports. The desire to win is often what pushes athletes to work harder and ultimately secure the game. However, it's easy to get caught up in competition and forget how to be a good winner. Encourage your kids to be good sports so that whether they win or lose, they'll have the respect of their teammates and opponents.

Start early
Begin teaching your children the lessons of winning and losing from an early age. When children begin to understand their performance as it relates to others, they can feel loss. This happens from as early as age three. Tell your kids that losing happens, that it's a part of life. At the same time, remind them that winning isn't everything and that effort is what really counts.

Be a model
Everyone - especially children - learns basic skills by watching others. Remember "monkey see, monkey do?" It applies to sportsmanship as well. If you emphasize effort and then fall apart when you lose, your children are more inclined to follow the example of your behavior. Model good sportsmanship for them by accepting loss with grace. Use phrases like "I'll try harder next time," or "it's alright, I had fun anyway."

When you win, don't rub it in the losers' face. Shake their hand and congratulate them on a job well done. You don't need to be playing sports to model this behavior. You can show good sportsmanship during family board game night or even while playing video games.

Using moments
Teachable moments occur throughout the day and aren't necessarily dependent on sports. Race your kids to the car and use the outcome as a teaching tool. Say things like, "Your sister won this time, but you did a great job!" or "great job beating me, will you give me a high five?". If you find your children don't want to participate in small competitive activities, it might be a sign they are scared to lose. Have a conversation about the importance of trying their best.

They'll be strong
Just because you're teaching your kids to accept victory or defeat with grace, it doesn't mean you're making them wimps. In fact, your kids can maintain a competitive attitude without snubbing their opponents.Let your children take pride in their victories, just be sure they don't turn around and rub it in another's face.

Don't let them win
Let your kids lose sometimes. They won't always win in life, but you can teach them this lesson in the safety of your home. Beat them in a race to the car or a board game. They may be sad for a while, but you can use the moment to teach them about losing. When a bigger loss comes, they'll have the skills to handle it. 

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