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Column: Teaching your child to be a good sport

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Commentary by Danielle Wiese, MD, Riley Physicians Zionsville

Raising children and managing the ups and downs of youth sports often go hand in hand. For parents, this not only means cheering from the stands but also helping children learn the importance and character-building value of good sportsmanship. Here are some strategies for raising kids who not only enjoy sports, but are good sports, too.

Set expectations. Take the time to share a pre-season conversation with your child about how he or she should act on the field, sidelines and in the locker room. It’s easier to hold kids accountable for their behavior if the ground rules are firmly established.

Model the attitude you want your child to convey. Remember that when you are yelling at the referee from the sideline (yes, even when he missed calling that penalty), you are sending a message to your child that this behavior is acceptable. The same holds true for criticizing your child’s coach. Even if you disagree with the coaching strategy, resist undermining the coach in front of your child.

Positively reinforce good behavior. Touchdowns and home runs are rewarded with cheers and high fives, but exceptional sportsman-like conduct is sometimes overlooked. Offer praise when you notice your athlete showing good sportsmanship, such as gracefully handling a tough loss, helping an opponent stand up post tumble, or respectfully accepting a questionable call against his or her team.

Emphasize your child’s value off the field. Sports are great for kids; they build confidence, provide exercise and help teach social skills. It’s important, however, for children to recognize that winning isn’t everything.

Danielle Wiese, MD, specializes in pediatrics. She is a guest columnist located at Riley Physicians Pediatrics – Zionsville, 1650 W. Oak St., Ste. 210, in Zionsville. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.873.8855.


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