A lot of young children struggle with good sportsmanship. It can be especially tough for little ones who are new to competitive sports, to lose games. This article contains some tips for helping your children (or, if you are a coach, your players) to learn how to be good sports. It takes time and will not happen overnight. Practice with them (and practice… and then practice some more.) The more you play sports and games with your children, the better they will get at losing from time to time. I’m not saying they will love to lose. That will never happen. But they will start to see that over time, “You win some and you lose some.” And it’s perfectly fine.

Remember that you are a role model for your kids, even when you think they aren't looking. (Similarly, if you are a coach of youth sports, you are a role model for your players.) They watch everything you do and try to emulate you. If you make it a habit of practicing good sportsmanship in front of them, they will gradually start to pick up on your cues and become better sports. 

With really young kids, it’s okay to let them win from time to time. They enjoy winning, and of course you want them to continue enjoying their participation in games and sports. Remember there will be setbacks. Young children have their good days and their bad days when it comes to being good sports. If your child suddenly throws a tantrum related to bad sportsmanship, remember that he is still learning. (Also, he might just be tired or grumpy or more emotionally fragile than usual on a given day.) It’s not the end of the world and it does not mean that he is not making progress with his overall sportsmanship.

 Put yourself in kids' shoes. Remember back to your own childhood. Chances are you were not a huge fan of losing either. Being able to empathize with their feelings will help you, particularly during those moments when you feel yourself losing patience with their unsportsmanlike behavior. Learning how to be a good sport is not something that happens overnight, so take it easy with them. Be patient with your kids and “don’t sweat the small stuff,” as the saying goes. Eventually, they truly will learn how to “roll with the punches” and be good sports.