One way to think about sportsmanship is that it is the application of moral standards and reasoning in the context of play and/or sport.Sport and play simply provide another avenue for children to develop, act on, and reflect on moral or pro-social thoughts, feelings and behaviors.As parents, we want our children to practice good moral decision-making in any social situation.And, we want sport programs to promote good sporting behaviors rather than those that promote a win-at-any-cost orientation.In short, we want children to have good character; and sport, if properly conceived and implemented, can provide an excellent vehicle for children to develop good character in a very tangible, hands-on way.Young children learn best through concrete experience, not abstract ideas.
Berkowitz and Grych in “Fostering Goodness: Teaching Parents to Facilitate Children’s Moral Development” (type this title into Google to read entire article) conducted an in depth review of the literature on moral development in children.They identified four foundational components (social orientation, self-control, compliance, self-esteem) and four central aspects of moral functioning (empathy, conscience, moral reasoning, altruism).
In their analysis of these 8 psychological characteristics, they identified five core parenting processes that contribute to their development.They are:
Induction - verbalizing by parents of the reasons for their decisions in a given situation;
Nurturance - establishing a warm, mutually positive and responsive interaction between the parent and child;
Demandingness – setting high, yet attainable, expectations for behavior and supporting the child in their attainment (parents who set standards and expectations that are unrealistic for a given developmental level create opportunities for children to experience frustration, anger and a sense of self as a failure.This is sometimes seen in families with a parent who wants their child to be “perfect” or “the best”);
Modeling - teaching through example is viewed by some to be the most effective teaching method (for example, by treating children with respect we create the basis for children learning to treat others with respect);
Democratic Family Decision-Making and Discussion – having family discussions about rule-making and consequences contributes to the development of compliance to family rules, moral reasoning, conscience, higher self-esteem, and altruism.
In a second article, “The Education of the Complete Moral Person” Berkowitz identifies the many components or ways of looking at moral development.He calls these the seven parts of moral anatomy.They are moral behavior, moral values, moral character, moral reason, moral emotion, moral identity and meta-moral characteristics.Some of the confusion in the study of moral development can be traced to the many ways of looking at, or the semantics of, moral development.Berkowitz makes the claim that so far there is no unifying theory that facilitates the integration of research from each of the disparate windows into moral development.Those who have a keen interest in this topic will benefit from downloading these articles and studying them in more detail.For the very serious “student” many other articles can be found by typing into Google, “Studies in Moral Development and Education”, and clicking on “featured articles”.These articles are very helpful for developing an understanding of the complexity of moral development in children!
In Sport4All, we focus on the foundation thoughts, feelings and behaviors upon which moral reasoning is based.For the 7 to 10 year old groups, we promote a blend of eastern and western ideas about sportsmanship and draw much of our material from the book, The Tao of Sport, by Bob Mitchell.This is an excellent book that has helped many athletes to develop a mature outlook on competition and the “winning” and “losing” that goes along with it.
Sport4All...Starting Kids Out Right! Tel: 301-325-9166