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Dos and Don'ts to Help Children have a Healthy Mindset in Sports

I am saddened by the behavior and attitudes that can come out of children playing sports.

Sports in childhood, what a BLESSING! For those who love sports, having the opportunity to PLAY during a time in your life when there should hardly be a care in the world, is such a JOY. Sports are a GIFT to our children, and each sport is meant to be a DELIGHT in our children's lives.

Both of my kids LOVE their sport. The sport they play is a huge passion in their life and is something they devote a lot of time and effort into. Starting at a very young age, they started to lean towards certain activities. For Ainsley, it was, undeniably, dance. She would twirl and leap and delight in moving to music. "Mommy, watch me", was a common phrase out of her mouth as she put on a show in our living room. Today it is still a great source of joy in her life. For Braxton, it was ANYTHING involving a ball. We remember him watching golf on tv when he was a mere two years old. Our front yard was a baseball field, our driveway was a basketball court, and our backyard was for epic touchdowns. Today he still can't choose his favorite sport because he loves them all so much, and practicing a sport is all he wants to do every day!

Sports allow the opportunity to teach children so much. So many life skills are learned on the courts and fields and stages of our sporting games.

But unfortunately, all too often, parents are leading their children down a wrong path through sports by the way they handle their kids' failures. The pressure and expectation leads not to kiddos who are well adjusted and confident, but leads to kiddos who lack in confidence and composure. Instead of viewing failure in a healthy way, they fall apart when they fail and grow angry when they miss the mark.

A child hits a bad drive off the tee, he angrily swings his club, storms off and cries in his towel while yelling at his grandfather. A child finds out he made an error on his score card for his opponent, which puts him in last place instead of second, and he throws his pencil down and neglects to congratulate the winner. I am noticing a lot of children who cannot accept it when they are not the best all of the time.

OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT D1 COLLEGE PLAYERS OR MAKING MILLIONS ON A PROFESSIONAL TEAM. THEY. ARE. KIDS. Stop treating them like they're Lebron James or Tom Brady.

I know sports bring heightened emotions. That is one reason sports are so great. There's not much that can bring grown men to tears, but sports easily can. When your kid, who you love more than anything in the world, is out there playing a sport that you have spent hours practicing together, it is very easy to get very caught up in it.

So, how can we be intentional and healthy in our view of sports and how we walk our children through? How can we use sports to teach our children about life? How can we ensure our children continue to LOVE their sport?

Here are dos and don'ts to encourage a healthy mindset and a rich enjoyment towards sports for your children.

*DO tell them after every game, "I love watching you play" (even if they lost).

*DON'T correct them from the stands while they are playing. Leave that for the coaches.

*DO smile at them often while they play and practice, even when they mess up.

*DON'T act disgusted with them. Be careful how your words and gestures come out. THINK before you speak or act.

*DO compliment other players, even opponents, in front of your children. Uplift others' talents with your child.

*DON'T compare your child to others. Stop trying to make your child feel better by constantly thinking of who they are better than or how someone else is worse than them.

*DO expect good character while on the court/field/etc. Hold them accountable when they behave poorly and show bad sportsmanship.

*DON'T cheat. Ever.

*DO make it clear that they will "win some" and they will "lose some", but life is still good.

*DON'T act like they are a disappointment when they make a mistake.

*DO make sure they know THEY ARE NOT THE BEST AT EVERYTHING. Making them think this is NOT helping them.

*DON'T make them feel like their game/sport is the most important thing in their life.

*DO be healthy in how you handle wins.

*DON'T make such a huge deal out of a win that it seems as if it's the thing that matters most to you or in life.

*DO make it clear that their identity is not in their sport or how they perform, but in CHRIST.

*DON'T let the intensity and emotion of sports ruin your testimony or relationship in your kids' life.

Live beyond status quo by being intentional in your child's sport.