This post is sponsored by Genius of Play, a one-stop source for play ideas that build real skills.
Youth sports is a great place for kids to learn how to deal with kids who are different. Whether it’s race, religion, skill-level or economic status, kids come together to play sports and they all have something in common: they want to have fun playing the game.
Sometimes, though, that is not enough to help them smooth over their differences. Give your children some tools that will help them deal with diversity on their team. Teach them these five truths:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger
Yelling back at someone who is yelling only escalates the conflict. Show your child the power in a calm answer–this means YOU have to practice it!–although in some cases it may frustrate the agitator. But if your child stays with it, calmness will eventually diffuse anger.
Look for ways to build others up, not tear down
Talk to your child about the importance of spurring others towards good, not towards negativity. This means no cutting remarks about others on the team–to them or about them–no tolerance for bullying, and no disrespecting the coach or officials.
Does your child know the difference between words that build up and words that tear down? Let’s say there’s a new kid on the team who has a funny accent. Instead of laughing at him or making fun, encourage him to focus on the positive: Your accent is cool! Where are you from? If your child learns to take the lead in showing that acceptance, it very well could point the rest of the team in a positive direction.
A person who wants friends must be friendly
Every child wants to have friends, but the first rule in making them is to be one to others, even before they are one to you. Is your child friendly to new teammates? Teammates from other countries? Teammates who are a different color? Teammates who aren’t as skilled as he is? Teammates who come from lower income homes? If she is, my guess is that she’s attracting a lot of friends.
Seek to understand
A person who is “different” may be wary of others and that hesitation may come across as coldness or abrasiveness. But there is always more to someone’s story. Perhaps the child is new and feels insecure. Or maybe his parents are pushy and demanding when it comes to playing sports; they want him to be the star and he’s not. Sometimes a child who is “different” may just be lacking confidence in who they are.
Seeking to understand does not necessarily mean that you ask a lot of questions; it merely means that you realize that there’s usually a why behind the what and sometimes that why is pretty tough. Seeking to understand means that you treat people kindly, looking past their aloofness or their “different-ness.”
Look for what you have in common
Talk to your child about the things they share with a teammate who is different: love of the sport, school, desire to do good, discouragement when mistakes are made—there’s probably a lot that they have in common if your child takes the time to look for it. Finding those commonalities can be a stepping stone to learning acceptance of everyone.
In the world of children’s play, the playing field should be level. Kids are kids–no matter their differences. Let’s nourish their pure joy of the game and their respect of everyone, no matter how different they may seem.
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