We all want our children to display good sportsmanship behaviors whether they win or lose.
But how do you teach it when they are devastated that they just lost a game or when they are super excited that they just won?
How do you go from this:
After playing games with many children over the years, I have found there are a few things that work (most of the time!):
First, before the game starts remind them that it's just a game and that you are playing for fun.
Second, review the expected behaviors whether they win or lose. Remind them of what they can say if they win (good game, that was fun, thanks for playing) as well as what they can say if they lose (that was fun, I'd like to play that again, you played well). You may even want to review what not to say!
Third, demonstrate the expected behaviors. In this game, I make sure that I am not overly excited when I win or disappointed when I lose. I emphasize the fact that I had fun. But I don't want to underestimate the fact that it is fun to win...because it is! Balance is important!
Another important thing to practice is finishing the game even if you know that you will lose. For example, I remember one night it took more than 10 minutes for Big Sister to make the only possible move she could make on the checkers board that allowed me to jump her last piece and end the game. We made her finish the game and we made her be the one to move the piece. Now, when I won, I didn't make a big deal of it and I praised her for her choices.
We focused on how she played and how much she learned (and reminded her that I have like 30 more years experience playing than she does) and how as she plays more, the better she'll get. I want her to be disappointed about losing, that will drive her to try harder and learn better strategies. But mostly, I want good sportsmanship behaviors regardless of the outcome of the game.
To practice these skills, I developed the quick and easy Lose-Win Game. Because so little time is involved in winning or losing this game, the emotional part is removed almost completely. Or at least you can get over losing more quickly!
Set It Up!
Print out a copy of the game (link at the end of this post!). Cut out enough game cards for everyone to draw one card. There will be one "Win" card and the rest will be "Lose" cards. Fold each game card in half. Also grab a paper bag or old gift bag and toss in the folded game cards.
You Can Do It!
To play the game have all the players sit in a circle and discuss the things you could say when someone wins. Write it down or draw a picture of those statements. Then discuss all of the things you could say when someone loses. Write those down too!
Before you each draw a card from the bag, pick a "win" comment and a "lose" comment. Then let each person take a card from the bag, keeping it folded until everyone has had a chance to get one. Then the person with the "Win" card goes first. He says his "win" comment. Then each player gets to say a comment as they put the game cards back in the bag. And that's it!
Quick, easy and if played multiple times, can really drive home the idea of keeping a positive attitude whether you win or lose the game.
Make it Just Right for Your Child!
I've had kiddos who have difficulty winning and not rubbing it in the faces of the other players. In these cases, I've had to practice what the winner says to the other players.
Tips for Success
practice, practice, practice!
play at least a few rounds so your child will win a few times and lose a few times
point out when others use good sportsmanship behaviors (at sports games or on TV or even members of the family when playing games)
play real board games and practice the comments at the end of the game
here's the link to the game one more time if you need it: here
For some exciting games that you can play at home with your kids, I'll be talking soon about Family Game Night...so stay tuned!
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”