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Kids understand playing fair: new research
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Kids understand playing fair: new research


As parents, we might think that messages around fair play fall on deaf ears at times, but the good news is that kids really do get it. In their delightful innocence, most kids see the wonderful worth of team work, the joy of having fun at play and above all, they understand the notion of playing fair.

At times, Kids' attitudes might need some positive shaping from parents and sporting coaches alike, but children's comments generally reflect their understanding that playing fair at games and sport is of the highest value to them.

Just imagine how impressive it might be if nearly 98 percent of kids believed that playing fair was really important, or if 96 percent believed that teamwork was really important.

In fact, these were the actual research findings from the McDonald's Champions of Play Index*, where over 1,000 kids let us know their thoughts. It's exciting to see that the message has really gotten through with over 700 of the 1,000 kids surveyed reporting that they felt that they always play fair. We really do have an impressive bunch of kids!

Kids didn't just get to this enlightened place by chance. Parents, teachers and sporting coaches have a very positive role to play in helping children grasp the benefits of playing fair and team work. Sure, your kids might not initially want to share toys as toddlers, or they might race to be first to the car, however we have many opportunities every day to engage kids in play and sport and through these activities they can learn the life-long benefits of playing fair.

Teaching children to pay fair begins with family games or backyard sports where adults or older children can set the rules and emphasise the importance of taking turns and playing a clean, straight game. Kids often need reminders, such as that by playing fair and taking equal turns, the game will last longer meaning we all have more fun. This leads to kids gaining personal contentment from teamwork, rather than just focusing on being the winner.

The parents I see in my work as a child psychologist often comment that they really hope to raise content, responsible and ethical kids. Kids who are guided toward the values of playing fair tend to be more personally content and happy, whereas overly competitive kids can tend to be more anxious about losing or failing, and more aggressive or willing to do anything to win.

If we want our children to be responsible, ethical adults who enjoy team dynamics the very best thing we can do is set an example in our everyday behaviour.

Ian Wallace's tips to help teach children to play fair:

  • Practice sharing, taking turns and playing fair in games and sport
  • Praise effort, not winning
  • Give rewards for fair play and teamwork, not for most goals scored
  • Be a good role model, show how to be a good loser
  • Have fun regardless of the score!

Ian Wallace is a child psychologist with a wealth of experience working with families and children. Ian highlights practical strategies for issues such as responsible parenting, building resilient kids, fathering and boys-to-men transition, dealing with defiant behaviour and bullying. His book, You and Your ADD Child (now in its 10th reprint) has become the practical handbook for Australian families and schools dealing with the everyday problems of ADD kids. He co-authored the popular book, Coping With School.

About McDonald's Champions of Play Index

* The McDonald's Champions of Play Index research was conducted online by Lonergan Research in May 2012 with a representative sample of 1,004 Australian children aged 6-14, and 1,004 Australian parents aged 18 years and over from across Australia, in both metropolitan and regional areas.

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