Intense Kids and Sportsmanship

Intensity & Low Frustration-Tolerance

If you parent an intense kid, nobody has to tell you that there may be bumpy roads ahead. A child's intensity, coupled with his or her low-frustration tolerance can lead to behaviors that make you wish you had ostrich-like capabilities at times (i.e., the ability to bury your head in the sand).

The intensity and low-frustration tolerance can converge on the playing field like it does in no other place. Your child may put on a very public display of what appears to be poor sportsmanship. But, before you fall into the trap of labeling your child as a poor sport, here are a few things for you to consider.

Five Things to Consider

1. Is your child a perfectionist? If so, some of the display may be fueled by the anxiety to perform perfectly.

2. Your child's upset may be proportionate to his desire to succeed. Looking on the bright side, this means your child has a goal in mind and feels thwarted when it cannot be acheived. This in and of itself is not a bad characteristic. However, it does provide parents with a clue that this child needs more support in handling a loss.

3. Notice that in the above statement, I said "support", not "punishment" or "discipline". Your child is not falling apart at the seams to annoy you, get attention or manipulate the situtaion. It is more a reflection of his innnate intensity and ability to experience his emotions in the extreme. Don't let your own sense of embarrassment or upset cloud your ability to see that this child needs your guidance, not your disdain.

4. You may be quick to notice, or others (ahem!) may be quick to point out...that little Johnny or Suzie are equally upset by the loss, but they are not having a fit about it. While this may be true, it may also be true that little Johnny or Suzie do not have the innate intensity that your child does. Each child really deserves to be seen as an individual in his or her own right, and not to be held against a yardstick of peers.

5. Some kids learn how to throw a baseball further at an earlier age and some kids learn how to handle intense emotions at an earlier age. Each child "gets it" in his or her own time.

Even Cal Ripken, Jr. Struggled with Intensity
To see and hear baseball great, Cal Ripken, Jr., talk about his own intensitites as a child, and how he coped, go here. After you read the article with your child, be sure to view the video to the right of article that features Cal Ripken, Jr.

All Kids Can Succeed with the Proper Support

With the proper support and guidance, intense kids can "keep their head in the game" like their less intense peers.

Here are a few books that I recommend. This first is for the younger athlete...

Bring Your "A" Game: A Young Athlete's Guide to Mental Toughness

...and this one is for High School aged students:

In Pursuit of Excellence: How to Win in Sport and Life Through Mental Training, Third Edition


won said…
Wow! I am so glad to see this post especially when I'm just about to head to the library. I asked the librarian a couple weeks ago about books in similar genres as the last one you've noted. She had nothing. You are right on time!

Off to pick it up - for the endurance sport of everyday teenage living and leaving it on my son's bed.

My son has a copy. It is a FAB ready for sports AND for life! Rock on mama!

Wendy =)
Ava said…
Wendy I love how you write and what you write and I so agree and appreciate your point of view.As one kid whisperer to another I especially love these lines:)
"Your child's upset may be proportionate to his desire to succeed"
" more support in handling a loss.Notice I said "support", not "punishment" or "discipline". Your child is not falling apart at the seams to annoy you, get attention or manipulate the situation.

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