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Encouraging good sportsmanship
Q: How can we convince my 4½-year-old grandson that winning isn’t everything? We have always emphasized how much fun you have playing the game. Lately, though, whenever we play baseball or bingo, he has a tough time if anyone does better than him.
A: It isn’t easy to convince children that winning isn’t everything when you consider how much emphasis is placed on winning in the media. As I wrote this answer, the winter Olympics were in full swing. All the attention was given to the gold medal winners, even though the winning margins were only fractions of seconds!

Some of the teaching about sportsmanship has to occur via modeling. Most of us, when playing with our grandchildren, will throw the ball a little wildly or deliberately strike out occasionally. That gives us a chance to lament good-naturedly, “I threw wildly that time, but it was fun, anyway.”

With indoor games that sort of “positive deceit” is more difficult. The next time your grandson has a fit if he doesn’t win, say matter-of-factly, “Well, that’s the end of the game tonight” and quietly put the game board away. If you think it won’t upset him too much, add, “Next time we play, I hope you remember that everybody likes to win sometimes, and there’s no point getting upset if you don’t win every time.”

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education