How do I balance encouraging my child to be motivated in sports but at the same time not become too aggressive?
As a parent, you have been teaching your children the value of respecting others by controlling their aggression since they were 2 or 3. Sports represent an opportunity to extend that expectation to a more demanding competitive arena. Your child faces a very challenging task. He must cooperate with coaches and referees, master the complexities of team play and do it all in a public setting with his parents watching.
To encourage these skills in your child, you must teach him that how you play the game is more important than whether you win or lose. Refrain from pressuring your child to perform; this may increase his aggression.
Clarify the boundary between "competitive" and "too aggressive." Children who cross that line need to take responsibility for their actions by apologizing and accepting the consequences. Congratulate your child on his sportsmanship no matter the outcome of the game. Remember that your child wants to please you more than anything so be pleased with his efforts more than his outcomes.
Dr. Patti Zomber is a child psychologist based in Marina del Rey, Calif. She has written numerous articles about parenting, and she is a contributing editor on NestleFamily.com as well as the editor of the Los Angeles Psychologist journal.