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Good Sportsmanship On and Off the Field…

“You cheated.” “Did not!” “Did too!” “Did not!” “Did too!” The biting words are common, endless and universal. Usually viewed during an exchange between children on the playing field, one can easily transfer a similar outburst years later in an adult setting (such as a boardroom). Often the stakes are greater and can lead to dangerous accusations and severe consequences. When is a game so much more than a game?

While there are many forms of cheating, none of them are acceptable. Breaking of rules intentionally or unintentionally for one’s benefit is not a tolerable behavior. The violation can be specific to a game or a more subjective breach of societal norms, customs, values, ethical and moral standards. Permitting the conduct to continue sends a message of acceptance while encouraging the formation of a negative pattern of behavior.

Cheating is not good at 5, 15, or 55 years of age. Sally bamboozles during a game of Candyland without penalty. Johnny secretly deceives while playing cards. Later, both feel that cheating on exams or homework is okay since no one is hurt. Sally is later surprised when she is fired from her job for not providing the proper services for clients, and Johnny is appalled to be fined by the IRS for inconsistencies on his tax return.

Overlooking the negative behavior from a preschooler lets them believe it is all right. EtiKids' curriculum is based on a standard of integrity and quality. Children are expected to be truthful and display sportsmanship. Fostering the social skills that will make them functional members of society comes with practice and expectations. These can be cultivated using a few helpful hints.

1. Learn the rules of the game. Children’s games have rules to follow; adults follow the culture of an institution or customs of a society. Teach children how the game is played. Focus on good behaviors, sharing, listening and playing fair.

2. Learn from mistakes and provide opportunity to do better by practicing. The blame game makes teammates feel bad. Think of how the situation could be avoided and a better way of accomplishing the goal.

3. Learn to lose graciously. There are winners and losers in every game. Losing provides valuable lessons for all. After all, there is always next time...

4. Be polite on and off the field, in and out of work or home. Leave the whining for babies. Showing off is not necessary. Good players are recognized and respected even more for setting a positive example. Trash talk is just that… garbage for the can!

5. Point out the positive. Catch children at their best! Children naturally want to please their parents. Recognize actions that emphasize good moral values and judgment. Simultaneously, it is good to express disapproval of unacceptable conduct; be careful to focus the remark on the behavior, not the child him/herself.

The grownups need to model the behavior for kids. Teaching children to play fairly in the sandbox now will be extremely helpful for them once they grow up. After all, imagine a world filled with love, truth and mutual respect. The dream can become a reality if the kids learn it now.