Today's society puts great emphasis on achievement and winning. How do these trends affect young athletes? Do you know how to help your child deal with the competition and disappointment involved in youth sports?

Most parents understand the importance of providing love and acceptance to their children. And it is more than just a hunch. The renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow stressed that individuals must have their needs for loving and belonging met before they can grow up to have confidence and self-esteem.

According to psychology experts, young athletes need even more support and acceptance, since they are often vulnerable to pressure from their parents to win or succeed in sports and other activities.

According to sports psychologist Marty Ewing, PhD, by engaging in sports, children learn to assess their social competence—their ability to get along with and gain acceptance from their peers, family members, teachers, and coaches. Ewing adds that kids learn about taking turns with their teammates, sharing playing time, and respecting rules. They understand that rules are important for everyone, and that without regulations, games would become unfair.

Although competition helps children develop problem solving and other skills, it can be both positive and negative. Negative competition occurs when a child competes for his self-worth and value. This happens especially when parents reinforce the concept that children must "play to win." Positive competition is the result of children competing to discover their strengths and inner talents, such as determination, patience, and power.