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Winning and losing: how can I teach my child to be good at both?

Learning the social graces of accepting defeat and revelling in victory, without becoming annoying or unpleasant, is a skill that lasts a lifetime. Many adults are unable to maintain their composure when involved in sports or games. Sportsmanship is a difficult skill to put into practise, especially for older children and teenagers. Parents should not expect children to behave perfectly every time there is a win or loss.

When dealing with your child's reactions to winning or losing, you should emphasise that other people's feelings are involved, not just those of your child. Your child is allowed to feel frustrated or angry over losing, but those feelings must not interfere with being civil and gracious to opponents or members of an opposing team. If your child wins, the losers should not be made to feel bad about it. Losing teams should be praised for having a good game, but no teasing or hurtful comments should be made. As a parent, you should set the example, since your child models a lot of behaviour from the way you react to events and situations.

By the age of eight, your child should be sporting enough to congratulate a losing opponent on a well played game, refrain from making negative comments about the winners of a game and congratulate a winner with a handshake. Some encouragement may be needed from you to ensure your child carries out these basic good sportsmanship routines.

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