“But I don’t want to,” the little dark haired girl whined as she plead with her mother.
“You will perform and win right now or I will spank you!”
Crying, the little girl in a bright, blue gymnastic leotard was carried to the middle of the room and “dumped” in the middle of the group of four and five year old girls.
I looked down at my little blond daughter and stooped to be eye level with her. “Do you want to do this today?”
With hesitation she asked, “Will you stay here?”
“Oh yes, I will sit with the other parents and watch you,” I replied.
“Okay, then I want to do it so you will see the stuff I learned,” she beamed as she kissed me and skipped to the middle of the mat and sat with the group of girls who were all staring at the now sobbing little girl in the bright, blue leotard.
I felt sorry for the little girl and totally did not want to even acknowledge the mother’s existence on the planet. I didn’t care if Alyssa came in last place as long as she was enjoying the experience and learning new social skills. It was hard to enjoy my bouncy pigtailed little girl while the crying child sobbed throughout the entire routine. The more the little girl cried, the angrier I became at her mother.
When the performance was over, many of the girls hugged each other whether they had fallen right off the mini balance beam or landed in a heap after a cartwheel. They had “completed” a performance and their self-esteem and confidence was growing.
That night I had a lot of explaining to do because Alyssa’s questions were endless about why the mother didn’t comfort her crying child. For a long time after that, our Barbies played and practiced good sportsmanship between each other and the parents.
When people grow up, do they forget how to be a good sport? A good sport is teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials that treat each other with respect by demonstrating a gracious attitude in his conduct throughout the entire event. Good sportsmanship is also reacting with positive self-esteem even during adversity…being a winner even when the score says you and/or your team lost.
Set the example and set the rules with children. If the child watches the parent blow up disrespectfully at the coach or other team members, the message that “It is okay to yell and scream when I’m angry and frustrated,” is conveyed to the child.
Everyone makes mistakes, so do not put undue pressure on a child to perform to perfection like the mother of the little girl in the bright blue leotard. Are you allowing your child to play in a sport to cultivate a pleasurable experience and socially interactive opportunities or to fulfill your dreams of success, college scholarships and riches? No one likes to lose especially when performing to their best ability.
Even though all the children received first place ribbons that day, we all heard the mother of the little crying girl tell her, “You are disgraceful,” as she literally “dragged” her out of the gym. Apparently the little girl did not “win” in the eyes of her mother that day and her mother did not have the child in the class for the right reasons.
Displaying good sportsmanship isn’t always easy, but it is necessary if as humans we are going to hold respect as a value that should be reflected in all actions. Do you teach your children to: shake hands with the winning team after losing; not to argue with the coaches and referees; acknowledging the opponent before the game or competition; assisting a competitor in need; or acknowledging a competitor’s skills to others?
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