Seven year-old Elliott is becoming a bad sport at baseball. After his games, he complains about how unfair the ref was, how that throw WAS in, how he really did get that kid out. The ride home from games becomes an open arena for airing every grievance he has with his teammates and with himself. This is driving his parents nuts because they want him to be a good sport but aren’t sure what to do.
Here are a few ideas to redirect negativity about the game into something positive:
Ask Why Playing Perfectly is So Important.
When your child is feeling down about his performance in a game, ask him if he thinks he is more lovable when he plays perfectly. Remind him that in your family, imperfect people are the most lovable kind. Go through and talk about some of the plays from the game: comment on the successful plays and discuss how every athlete in every sport has their shining moments and their disappointing moments.
Have Them Notice and Encourage the Other Players
At the next game, give your child the task of watching other players closely. Every time he notices that a teammate has a bad play, urge him to go give them a couple words of encouragement. What you want to focus on with this is building good sportsmanship rather than trying to squash bad sportsmanship.
Notice and Empathize Unfair Calls
There are always questionable and downright unfair calls in all kids’ sports. Empathize about how frustrating it is when there is an unfair call. Be specific! Name the kid’s feelings of anger, sadness, embarrassment.
Keep Score of the Good
Tell him you are going to watch him and count every time he handles a tough call with good sportsmanship (you can also use the terms “class” or “dignity”). After the game, celebrate all those good moments (ignore the bad) of good sportsmanship he demonstrated. Perhaps the higher the score, the higher the scoops on an ice cream cone? 🙂
Use Selective Vision
Make the focus on building what you want more of. Look for that with a magnifying glass and get blurry vision about the times he not quite so gracious.