When Life’s Not Fair: Teaching Your Child through Sportsmanship

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“That’s not fair!”

Can’t you just hear the whining and complaining in the exclamation? Nearly every parent will hear those annoying three words exclaimed by a child at some point in the child-rearing years.

And more than once, I’ve responded on occasion, “Sweetie, I know. Life’s not fair.”

For a few years, a cultural trend has been occurring in America in various sports associations. The trend is to give everyone on the team a trophy and tell every child they are a star player. I wholeheartedly endorse strong encouragement of children. However, I question whether or not our “equal rewards programs” truly teach a child to accept his or her own talents and gifts, as well as encourage the talents and gifts of others. Shouldn’t we coach our children early on to comprehend that there just might be someone else who can kick a ball harder or throw with more accuracy? That God gives all of us good gifts and it’s our job to steward those gifts to the fullest use for His glory?

Today I wanted to share four thoughts about teaching your child through sportsmanship. As parents, we carry the responsibility of using daily situations, like the slip of the words “that’s not fair,” to teach relevant life lessons. So what does sportsmanship have to do with building character?

Four Ways to Teach Your Child Through Sportsmanship

  1. Teach your child to identifying truth by acknowledging his or her own own skills. I don’t want my child to think he is going to throw a strike every single time and grow up to become the next Babe Ruth if he isn’t gifted in this area. Have you ever heard someone sing for a competition and seen them stare at the judges in disbelief? “What do you mean singing is not my thing? My parents have been encouraging me every step of this journey.” Doesn’t the truth hurt? Introducing the truth of your child’s skill, or giftedness, no matter the area, is always best for the long term.
  2. Encourage your child to be the very best he or she can be. Our family loves to try new sports and activities. You never know how well you can perform at a certain sport until you’ve given it your all. The Bible is clear that whatever we do, we should do it with all our might and strength to bring glory to God. (I Corinthians 10:31)
  3. Acknowledge the gifts, talents and work of others. Often team-oriented sports provide the opportunity to recognize the work of each position on a team. Giving an encouraging word to everyone displays your beliefs in action — yes, even to the referee who, perhaps, didn’t see the call exactly as you did.
  4. Address the competition factor of sports. There are days we win and days we lose. There are games we win and games we lose. There are life battles we win and life battles we lose. The one unchanging factor for our children should be that as parents, we are always there for them and support them. Win or lose, our love for them will never change.

If you want to teach your children about what Gods says about winning and losing well, I recommend the new book, Win or Lose, I Love You! by Lysa TerKeurst.

As described on the back cover, this darling picture books helps children:

  • Replace the selfish characteristics of competition with an understanding of how to treat others fairly.
  • Overcome the tendency to display poor sportsmanship by using Biblical truths to develop a Christ-like attitude.
  • Reject the labels of winning and losing and embrace that they are loved no matter how they perform.

It’s a great book on a timely topic that will open the door for many parents who want to talk about how to handle winning and losing with the Biblical standards for grace and humility!

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Your Turn

What sports experiences have you shared with your children to encourage the growth of their character? Do you have some specific strategies you’ve employed with your kids to teach your kids grace and humility through sports? Come share with us on our blog!

Rachel Wojo

Rachel Wojo loves being a wife, mom to 7, author and Bible study teacher. She and her husband, Matt, enjoy caring for their busy family, whose ages span 3 to 25 years and includes a special needs daughter. In her "free time" she crochets, knits, and sews handmade clothing. Ok, not really. She enjoys running and she's a tech geek at heart. Reader, writer, speaker and dreamer, you can find Rachel at RachelWojo.com.

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