Fran’s Soapbox: There’s Only One Winner

I’m going to step on my soap box now so be warned! When I was growing up, medals, trophies and awards were all things that you worked hard for, practiced hard for. It was still the case when my kids were growing up. That’s not the case anymore in so many ways and it makes me crazy. I don’t understand why people feel the need to acknowledge a child’s simple participation in an activity with a trophy -this isn’t the way of the world. What did they do to earn that trophy? Did they simply say “ok” when Mom or Dad said, “you have to play little league”? – Like they had a choice.

The world we live in is a very competitive place. People study and work hard to achieve a certain status in their field – they are not given awards simply because they thought it might be an interesting occupation or because their sibling is doing the same thing and their parent thinks it’s a good idea for them to do it too. It’s just not how it works; it has never been how it works. That’s not to say that some, very few, don’t achieve status through nepotism or because they were born into a certain family but those few know that’s how they got there and it is definitely not how the vast majority of us got where we are.

The idea that we have to be “careful” of our child’s feelings, ego or sense of self…or make sure we don’t do anything to dampen their spirit is not going to help them navigate the real world. I’m definitely NOT advocating cruelty, meanness, or bullying. Quite the opposite. Not only was I bullied in grammar school (we moved a lot, I skipped a grade, was small, etc.) but my eldest was, as well, so I’m very sensitive to how mean kids can get.

What I am saying is that we have to be honest with our children. The world around them is not going to give them anything extra just because they participated. The accolades should come from us as parents in the form of encouragement, not a trophy.

Kids are smart. They know when they deserve something and when they don’t. They will certainly know it when they have a shelf full of trophies for “participation” or being a “team member” and they still don’t get to pitch in the game when they get a couple of years older and the real competition starts.

I asked a friend who coaches a competition team of young kids his opinion. He said all of the kids on his team know that the participation ribbon they give to everyone who shows up is, in his words, “stupid and useless”. He said it was the organization that his team is a part of that has the rule that everyone gets something. If the kids know it’s bogus what’s the point?

So, be completely frank with your kids. In a ski race, there is only ONE person that comes down the mountain first. Only one who clocks the shortest time. It’s the skier that not only had the talent but also practiced like there was no tomorrow. Let your kids know that there is only ONE person who deserves that trophy – the person that did the work. Do your kids a favor – be honest with them.

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