Q&A: Teaching sons about healthy competitions


My wife and I were both athletes in school, and we’re very competitive. Our six-year-old twins want to start playing badminton. We’re all for it, but we want to make sure that we maintain a healthy family perspective about competition. Do you have any advice?

Answer: We commend you for wanting to teach your sons a healthy family perspective about competition.

It’s bad news when a youth sporting event disintegrates into poor sportsmanship, yelling, and even fistfights. It’s even worse when it’s the parents’ behaviour in question. We’ve all heard stories about adult behaviour at children’s sporting events that leaves us shaking our heads. Fortunately, most parents wouldn’t dream of acting out violently. But it’s not just extreme cases that take the fun out of youth sports. Yelling at coaches, officials, and players, or criticising your child’s performance, can be humiliating for all concerned.

If you’re one of those mums or dads who experiences soaring blood pressure while sitting in the stands, keep perspective on what’s really important. Winning isn’t everything, and a child’s bad game isn’t the end of the world. There are many positive character traits they can develop through sports, even if they aren’t the best player. They may decide they’d rather do something else, and that’s okay. 

Tell your twins that you’re proud of them regardless of whether they win or lose – and really mean it! And treat everyone connected with the game with respect. The way you handle yourself when you disagree with a referee’s call or a coach’s decision will teach your child how to act as well. When mums and dads are team players and good sports, everyone wins.

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