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not sure if this is the correct forum or not, but does anyone have any ideas or resources for teaching sportsmanship? my 7yo is a TERRIBLE sport. in anything remotely competitive, if she's not winning or even ahead, she starts screaming, crying, name calling, and accusing everyone else of wanting to win and her to lose. she becomes completely unreasonable and uncontrollable and ends up being sent to her room to calm down. i honestly don't understand how her friends/sisters even want to still play with her. it's seriously ridiculous. we've read books about sportsmanship, talked about appropriate responses, etc, but nothing seems to be working. can anyone help?

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Honestly, there are two things that have helped here.


1) Playing games as a family, nightly, and helping her learn the game, but NOT letting her win. She's gotten to the point, now, that she's competitive with DH and I, and she's also gotten to the point where she's much better able to cope with losing or being behind




2) Putting her in activities that she struggles in, but enjoys, and focusing on improvement and just having fun. It's much easier to work on behavior when you're struggling when the child is choosing the activity and choosing to struggle, but I have seen the behaviors slowly spill over.


It's still a growing skillset, especially in areas where she normally DOES do well.


The other thing to watch is to see what messages she's getting from others. DD has run into that in academic competitions, which she loves. She's had a parent actually tell her, flat out that "You'd better study hard, because next year X is going to get you, because you're the one to beat!", and has heard parents and adults make those statements to other kids that they'd BETTER not lose to X. (I'm the one who is saying "go out, do your best, have fun, and afterwards we'll go eat ice cream!") And it's hard, as a parent, to point out that, yes, winning is good, but going out, having fun, and doing the best you can is better if what the DC is hearing from other adults is "You need to win!". Especially if she's involved in anything competitive outside the home, I'd look seriously at what is being taught. If it's "Everyone wants you to lose-you have to prove to them that you're a winner", it's more than reasonable that she'd carry this over into her play, even if it's not appropriate behavior for a friendly game.

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Yes on playing games as a family! So much modeling and learning happens there! And if a friend is over and they play a game, maybe you could join in for a while and remind your dd of the things your family is working? We very specifically taught ds6 that after you play a game w/ someone, in our family we shake hands and say "good game," even if we're feeling disappointed that we lost. Now we're working on being encouraging to each other (ie: not gloating!) during the game.


With my dd10, her issue about losing is her perfectionism and low self-esteem. She seems to think that she's only lovable and worthy if she's good at what she's doing, stemming from getting a LOT of positive feedback for that when she was little and still living with her birthmom. She now finds it hard to believe that we still think she's amazing even if she loses every time, or can't learn her mathfacts, or whatever. With her, we approach it with a lot of "do your best" etc. After soccer, we first ask "did you have fun?" "Did you learn something?" "What shall we work on this week?" With lots and lots of praise for anything we notice that she or her team improved on from the last game/practice. In school stuff, it means that when she's with a friend who has already learned decimals and our method doesn't do that until later, we talk about how everyone is different, and there's different ways to do it, and the friend probably hasn't yet learned x. Family games have helped too. It's healthy for her to experience disappointment and to not be the best at something, it's great practice for her to do that here with us and we work hard to validate and hear her feelings, and to reframe the way she's thinking about it.


All that to say: play games! Be competitive! Have fun! And focus on the fun, the learning, the improvement. Good luck!

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My brother coaches sports camps and he seems to think that unsportsmanlike attitudes are typical for primary age kids. He says that team sports ad family game time teach the skill fairly quickly and that it's easier to teach at 5 and 6 than trying to teach it to a 10 year old.

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