Four seconds remain on the clock. Twelve-year-old Melissa steps up to the foul line and fires off a shot that could win the championship game. The ball arcs toward the basket, hits the backboard, and teeters on the rim. Will Melissa's shot be the game-winner?
It's called the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But win or lose, experts say, it's far more important for Melissa and her teammates to take away from sports some lessons about self-esteem, motivation, discipline, and getting along with others.
Experts say that if your child has a genuine interest in playing a sport, and a parent can encourage that interest, then it's a great method for teaching your kids how to cooperate, and how to be generous in winning and generous in losing.
How can you help your kids to benefit from sports? Here are some suggestions:
Always praise your child's effort on the court or field, not the outcome.
Come to terms with your own attitudes about winning and losing. Although winning is important to children, if you project the attitude that winning is everything, your children will pick it up. For children, winning is less important than playing, exercising, and learning sportsmanship.
Use sports to teach lessons about life. For example, if your child is supposed to be at basketball practice, but wants to go to a party instead, your responsibility as a parent is to insist that the commitment to the team comes first.