Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Learning to be gracious: The art behind good sportsmanship skills

"Mommy, is he still learning to share?"

This is music to my ears. Regus #1 has been teaching me how graciousness and good sportsmanship skills go hand-in-hand.

Let me rewind for a moment. My children, like me and hubby, are natural competitors. I think this is something born in many children; however, (from my perspective) it appears that our society is trying to make everyone winners — no losers. Again, from my perspective, this has the potential to backfire on us all. I say that because, in life, we will all meet obstacles and hardships; and we need to be ready to handle it. As parents, we can choose to guide our children through these trying times or shield them from it. I prefer to help my children understand and learn how to deal with the confusing feelings and emotions of winning and losing. If we don't allow them to experience the feelings of winning and losing, they may first feel it when they get their first job. It may not be pretty to "lose your cool" in front of a boss.

My goal is to teach them that while winning is fun and rewarding, it is not kind to mock the losers. Instead, we need to encourage them and learn from them. At some point in life, we will lose at something. It's not a bad thing. That's how we learn.

Aren't they sweet? A few seconds after this picture was taken, they started tackling each other... Boys!

So, in case you're wondering, I didn't decide to try to become super mom for no reason at all. Like most parents, my parenting stems from handling a behavioral problem. As I mentioned earlier, my boys are very competitive. So much so that they like to make a race of who can get to the bathroom first to brush their teeth. The winner would usually end up gloating in an all-too evil, cartoon-villain way... Seriously!. Then, the loser would fall on the floor crying.

Trying to be the nice mom, I attempted to rig the race. This, too, failed because they now saw that it wasn't a race anymore but just taking turns. When I say "failed," I mean that they didn't learn to be nice to one another. They tolerated letting each other take turns, which really isn't a bad thing. Albeit, it's not the point.

After some thought (and prayer), hubby and I decided that we needed to take a different approach to the winning-losing scenario. At 3 and 5, we thought it was ok to start teaching them about good sportsmanship skills: being a gracious winner, learning from loosing, and being supportive to team mates (in this case, family).

The method:
  • All games were focused on giving a "good job" or high-5 to the winner. In turn, the winner needed to say "thanks." When someone started to feel down about not winning, we just kept encouraging.
  • Started memorizing one of my favorite sayings: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." 
  • While playing hop-scotch or any kind of running/jumping activity, we cheered (literally, call out their name and say "Woohoo, you can make it!") for the person running or jumping. At the end, we'd all give high-5s.
The result:
  • The winners would beam from ear-to-ear when they got a "good job."
  • There was less grumbling about saying, "If at first you don't succeed..."
  • Everyone was trying harder, when there was a cheering section.
  • Even when someone lost, they came back to cheers from the rest of the family. Then I see him try again the next time.

Finally, I noticed Regus #1 taking it all a step further. As we play with other children that don't yet know how to deal with sharing or playing fairly, he doesn't gloat or get upset. Instead, he comes to me and asks, "Is he (or she) still learning, Mommy?" I respond, "Yes, honey he is. Let's giving him some space."

It is so precious to see this. It is graciousness at it's finest.

Another friend also suggested that I make it challenge to see if everyone can make it to the bathroom before I finish counting. This way, they are encouraging each other to make it there before mommy stops counting — instilling teamwork skills. This idea has been invaluable to us, as well.


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