Logging on to Twitter this morning I immediately noticed a new hashtag being thrown around, #participationtrophy. A quick search revealed that James Harrison, a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, recently posted a photograph of his own kids “2015 Best of the Batch Next Level Athletics Student-Athlete Awards” participation trophies and stated that he was returning them to teach his kids a lesson.
They must learn to “EARN a real trophy”.
They must learn that “sometimes your best is not enough”.
I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues
Participation trophies have long been a controversial thing in this country with older generations claiming that offering kids rewards for doing nothing more than showing up and trying is teaching them that entitled to something. Baby-boomers especially seem to think this “coddling” stunts a boys ability to become a “real man”. It turns our children into sissy.
I grew up in a houeshold where doing my best was enough. There were many years when report cards went home and my mother lectured me about really trying. She told me that if she knew my best was a D than she would be happy. Instead she knew I could do better and that was why I was now in trouble.
My parents didn’t get everything right but I think this is one they did. They didn’t want me to feel badly about where I stood in comparison to my peers. For them, participation was enough, but it had to be real participation. Now that I am an adult I am thankful for that. We all can’t be the best at everything and for a child to be told that their best wasn’t good enough and they need to try harder can be devastating to their self esteem.
What is good for their self-esteem is for their best to be seen and appreciated.
I took that lesson with me and now on the days when I did my best and things don’t turn out the way I wanted them to I don’t stress about it. I do my best and that is all I can do. I know that as long as I tried as hard as I could, as long as I gave 100%, I was good enough.
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I think this culture of hyper-competitivness is at best, unnecessary, and at worst, harmful to a child’s development. A participation trophy does not teach a kid he doesn’t have to try harder. You think your kid doesn’t know that he lost? Of course he does! He knows him and his team did not win first place, we’ve all been there, we all know that hurts. But when you give a kid and his team something to take home, something to hold on to, it fosters that drive to win.
I keeps kids from being crushed before they can develop a tough shell against such loses. These kids aren’t ready for that hit to their psyche. Recognizing their effort keeps them loving the sports they are playing and keeps them coming back so they will try harder.
How hard is it to get a kid to keep trying and giving 100% after they have become frustrated? Yeah you can keep dropping them off at practice but your kid is going to be out there playing the lazy game. He’s going to remember that year when he tried his best and lost and got nothing but a lecture about how is best wasn’t good enough. He’s going to remember that year and think he can’t do it.
Instead, I say give that kid a trophy, a ribbon, something he can see, something he can hold on to. Let him know that you see him trying and with practice and time to hone his skill his next trophy can be even bigger one. I bet you he keeps giving his all.
And maybe that’s enough for first place next time, and maybe it isn’t, but it should always be enough for you, his parent.
Original image via Ryan Tir