todd cartmellToday’s guest post is from Dr. Todd Cartmell, a speaker at our upcoming 2014 Hearts at Home North Central Conference!  

buttonregisterYou don’t want to miss Dr. Cartmell, Dr. Kathy Koch, Crystal Paine (aka Money Saving Mom) Angela Thomas, and dozens of other incredible speakers who are coming together in Rochester, MN, November 7-8!

If you live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and even Nebraska and parts of Canada, this conference is perfect for you! Grab some girlfriends, your sister or sister-in-law and make a girl’s getaway weekend of it!

Back to Dr.Todd….He’s a full-time child psychologist in Wheaton, Illinois and the author of several parenting books, including Raising Flexible Kids (ebook); Project DadRespectful Kids; and Keep the Siblings, Lose the Rivalry.

Most importantly, Todd and his wife, Lora, have two children and live in Geneva, Illinois. You can read Dr. Todd’s parenting blog at


This blog could just as easily be titled, “I hate this game!”


Because these are the things kids say when they struggle with what has come to be referred to as being a “good sport.”  In other words, they would love any game if they always won.

Not likely to happen.

Most kids struggle with being a good sport at least a time or two at some point in their lives, but are generally able to put their losses into perspective and realize that no one wins them all.  Some kids, however, find losing a game (any kind of game) to be a major stumbling block and can become quite unfriendly, and even downright disrespectful, when they realize that they have come up short on the scoreboard.

If you are a parent of that child, this blog is for you.

The key ingredient that is missing for the “poor sport,” is flexible thinking.  This is the ability to look at the situation in a flexible way that immediately puts it into a healthy and balanced perspective.  This keeps a person’s emotions in the right zone, which helps their response be friendly and respectful.  Instead, our “poor sport” is momentarily taken hostage by mad thinking, as illustrated below:

SITUATION:  Johnny loses a game of checkers.

MAD THOUGHTS:  I hate this game.  I always lose.  He (whoever just won) cheated! 


BEHAVIOR:  Sulks, argues, refuses to help clean up, throws game pieces, does not congratulate the winner.

RESULT:  Could earn a negative consequence and is not likely to be asked to play checkers again any time soon.

It is easy to see how mad thinking, and the behavior that follows, can impact not only home relationships, but relationships in school and extra-curricular activities as well.

If this sounds all too familiar, the solution is to help your child learn to be flexible in these situations.  One simple step that will get you moving in the right direction is to make a short list of “flexible thoughts” for your child to memorize.  You can customize the flexible thoughts for situations that involve games, sports, or any type of activity where your child could “lose.”  For example, your list could include:

  • It’s no big deal
  • I tried my best.
  • No one wins all the time.
  • Maybe we will win next time.
  • You win some, you lose some.
  • Even though I lost, it was still fun.
  • Maybe I should practice more.
  • I should say, “Good game.”

Sit down with your child and, depending on his or her age, choose 3-5 of these “Good Sport Flexible Thoughts” and write them down on a piece of paper.  Feel free to change the wording or come up with your own.  Once you have your list, say them together several times until your child has them memorized.

Love Your Life 2014 NCThen, when your child is about to begin a game or sporting event, gently remind her to have fun, do her best, and to use her flexible thoughts if she (or her team) loses.  Quickly review a couple of her favorite flexible thoughts to make sure they are fresh in her mind.

As your child begins to use her flexible thoughts during games, sports, and other activities, she will find it easier to respond in a gracious and friendly way when she happens to lose.  This in turn, will have a positive effect on her friendships and she will feel proud of herself for learning how to handle these situations that used to give her a run for her money.

She will be experiencing something that I tell kids in my office on a regular basis:  Flexible thinking makes your fun go up!

Here are the steps again:

1)  Make a list of flexible thoughts with your child.

2)  Help your child memorize them.

3)  Remind your child “on-the-spot” to use them.

Then, watch what happens!

What about you? What strategies have you used to help your kids learn to be good sports?  Join the discussion here

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