Sport can teach our children many valuable life lessons and can have a major part to play in shaping our children’s behaviours and attitude.
Whether coaches like it or not, however, parents predominantly still play the most influential role. Parents spend the most time with their children and as a result can have the greatest influence. That is why the perfect combination of coaches and parents working in harmony, singing from the same hymn sheet has the most positive impact on our sporting children.
Being a positive parental role model probably has a greater impact than you may think and if we want our children to be good sports for example then you have a key role to play.
‘That team is rubbish’
“Those referees were awful, not sure what games they were watching”
“What a complete waste of time, I wish I never signed up for this.”
These are just some of the comments that I am sure many of us have heard on the sidelines of sporting contests and many with very similar connotations, so is it any kind of surprise if our children follow suit and become bad sports?
Losing is not easy for many children, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?
Our very good friend John O’Sullivan of the Changing the Game Project sums it up beautifully, “Children are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating.”
If this is the case everything that we do from our attitude, body language and our verbal communication is being watched by our children. They are pretty sure to follow suit. We need to stop and think about how our actions may be affecting the attitude and approach of our own children?
So if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should.
If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.
It all sounds very straight forward but we all know as sporting parents in the heat of battle that sometimes we may get it wrong, but there may be further consequences.
I recently heard a 9 year old yell ‘snap him’ to another player on his team to an opposing player running with the ball. Really? A 9 year old being asked to break somebody’s leg?
I do not apologise for this, but that is not the language of a 9 year old child without the influence of adult behaviour and is just a most shocking remark.
If we want our children to be good sports we cannot allow them the excuse that my parents aren’t good sports so I don’t have to be.
Bad sportsmanship and bad mouthing opponents is probably on the rise and if it isn’t, it has certainly become more public. If we take a look at some of the talk on the television when players disrespect opponents, this is also adding to this growing trend in children’s sports.
This is why it is so imperative that both parents and coaches go out of their way to address this and ensure that children are being steered down the correct path.
So how can you potentially address it as a sporting parent?
As a parent, could you find sportsmen and women around the world on the TV who always display a good attitude and show good sportsmanship and use them as an example to help your children if they are finding this tough?
When your child wins a game, a gentle reminder to them about how their opponents may be feeling based on their own experience is a good way of them handling victory in a positive manner.
The fact that many children’s sports games do not carry the significance that we place upon them and will be forgotten in the future remind us that keeping things in perspective is really important.
Try to keep all of your praise and focus based on the processes and not the outcomes. If we see a bad decision from an official and we have this in the back of our mind, the chances of us reacting badly reduce and crucially our children will see a positive approach to model their behaviour on.