Children's Etiquette: Being a Good Sport

Children's Etiquette: Being a Good Sport

17th September 2023

With the summer season comes sports day, sleep away camp, endless playdates, and games galore. So, we thought what better time to re-enforce the etiquette of “being a good sport.”

It has been suggested when choosing activities for young children, that it is best to choose a team sport and martial arts. The reason behind this winning combination is that team sports teach a child to be a team player, while martial arts focuses and fosters on personal discipline. Both guide children into being a good sport; however, being a good sport is not solely related to athletic activities. It is a principle that should be applied in every aspect of life, which is why it’s so important for children to learn this at an early age.



Being a good sport goes beyond remembering to say, “good job,” when a friend’s team scores the winning goal.

There are basic rules for being a good sport. They range from knowing how to communicate to learning to accept your losses. Adults can find it hard to be a good sport. We sometimes see it on sports fields or at games where a determined or overly focused parent gets into an argument with another parent. Field games are meant to be for our children’s enjoyment and benefit, so don’t lose sight of how our kids would expect us to behave. Their coach wouldn’t act like that, so why would you? I know of a soccer league that makes parents sign a pledge that they will behave while watching the kids play. Remember: You’re their coach in life, so conduct yourself properly and be a great role model.


There is nothing more unattractive than a child who uses obscenities! A child should not swear. This is a bad habit and is partly due to the fact that many adults swear near or around their children. Be mindful of what you say when your children are within earshot. If they hear you cursing, they might find it normal and mimic your behavior.


Losing is never easy at any age, but when you’re young it can be especially hard to come in last or say, lose three games in a row at chess or cards. In large families, the younger child may often feel as though they’ll never win a game. Just remind them that being able to accept a loss builds resilience - plus, practice makes perfect, which means they will need to accept a certain number of setbacks in order to advance in their sport or hobby. Never set the bar the bar too high for your child, though; if you do, and they crash, then they might feel they have disappointed you. Let them lead the way while gently motivating them.

If a child feels they’re not doing well at a sport or musical instrument, let them know they can actually learn more from rejection or failure than from success.


A good way to teach your child about winning and losing is through playing a game. It’s important for children to see that their parents, other adults, and older siblings – can lose games and be gracious losers. That way, the adults are leading by example. Similarly, show your children that there is never a reason to cheat and that any victory achieved through cheating is unfair not only to the other people involved, but also to themselves.


Being a braggart or continually boasting is considered ill-mannered and will make your child quite unpopular, fast. Just because they’ve won the award for the best math student in school or own the largest collection of designer sneakers in their class, doesn’t mean they should gloat about it. Bear in mind that a child might not be aware that they are gloating and upsetting others, so it’s important to point out this behavior. Bragging is often rooted in insecurity, so there may be underlying issues relating to lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. Try to help your child to feel more secure in what appears to be their vulnerable areas; as I always tell me children, people don’t need to list their accomplishments or boast about grades to make friends.


Sometimes children’s emotions can be so intense that it seems almost comical to try and appease them by telling them to be empathic. Yet, I do this for many reasons. For one, it gets the child to understand how others might be feeling. If one of my children confesses how upset they are with one of their friends, for instance, I often ask them how their friend might see the same story. When they have to pause and think about the event from other persons perspective, they usually calm down and realize that they’re not the only person experiencing that moment.

That said, I don’t advise prohibiting your child from having negative emotions, and I recognize when one of my children is upset. Healthy emotional intelligence, however, will help them to process and regulate their emotions a lot more easily. Friends will inevitably still fall out or disagree with each other every now and then, but by learning to consider others’ points of view, children begin to forge a vital tool in helping them to be good sports. 

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