Why Every Child Doesn't Deserve a Trophy
Participation doesn't equal excellence.
The June 2011 edition of Family Circle Magazine featured an essay by Karin Fuller entitled “All Is Not Fair: Sorry — I Just Don’t Think Every Kid Deserves a Prize.”
In today’s society where feel-goodism and participation is “king”, it was refreshing to read a magazine article that I could wholeheartedly agree with. Not every child deserves a trophy for participating or merely trying to do something. While participating is good and indeed needed, sometimes a body on the baseball field is not needed so much as a body that performs better than other people.
I appreciated the fact that Fuller realized that participating in something or merely trying to do something doesn’t equate with doing a good job or equate with being successful. Participation doesn't merit reward, if that case were true, all football players would have a SuperBowl ring.
Fuller's essay recounts an overheard conversation between two mothers bemoaning the fact that their children weren’t rewards with poor work and poor work ethic. “Let me see if I’ve got this right,” Fuller writes, “Kids who don’t try should get the same benefits as those who do? … Are we so obsessed with fairness that we raise children to believe everyone should be treated the same, regardless of effort or skill?” She’s right you know, handing over rewards to everyone devalues the trophy and puts everyone on the same footing.
“By trying to run our schools and activities counter to reality we’re doing a disservice to our children." -- Fuller
Treating everyone the same, regardless of output hasn't worked very well economically speaking, and it doesn't translate well in the sports world either. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but when's the last time you saw a professional sports team hand out 'participation' awards? You don't. That's because they know that merely participating isn't the point- excelling at something is far better than merely showing up. Rewards should be handed out for doing above what is called for, for doing better than your competitors.
In a similar post from PhillyBurbs.com, blogger J.D. Mullane states:
When it comes to sports, some kids are destined for greatness, but most are destined to be great fans. Giving everyone a trophy is unfair. It would be national news, probably, if an athletic association announced that it would honor only top players, because this is a lesson in fair play. Kids understand this. It should be explained that the real world neither respects nor rewards those who glom another player’s glory. The sooner this is learned, the better children are prepared to survive, thrive and pursue their own happiness in a highly competitive world.
"A kid who works hard should be the only one with a trophy, ribbon, medal or plaque at the end of the season." -- Mullane
How this relates to the 'real world'
If sports teams are a jumping board for other grown-up ventures, let's think about how handing our participation awards relates to the adult world of the job market. The work force doesn’t hand out raises to everyone because they showed up to work most days, nor does the big client award a marketing deal by choosing via “eemie, meenie, miney, mo.” Hard work is rewarded with big paychecks. Hours are given to those who work hard and show up with a determination to make a difference in the work place (or at least they should be!).
In today’s economy, it’s dog-eat-dog. You better try your darndest to make that sale/write the report/flip the burger/hammer that nail as best you can or you’ll be out of a job soon, and replaced by someone who is just glad to out of the house and working again. As Fuller puts it, “by bolstering self-esteem across the board, we’re sending the message that self-esteem is more important than hard work and achievement.”
Children and adults alike need to know that their effort and time is worth something, is valuable and that they are capable of more than just the status quo — they can achieve greatness! All is not equal, nor should it be. Some are smarter; some work harder, while others don’t care at all.
Fuller closes her essay with these wise words explaining that children “need to see that people who work hard to achieve – even if they fail at first – will be rewarded more than those who don’t. That’s called real life. And it’s fair."
Truer words haven’t been spoken. From one mother to another, thank you, Karin Fuller.
FamilyCircle.com: Not Every Kid Deserves a Prize (Karin Fuller)
PhillyBurbs.com: Not Every Kid Should Get a Trophy (J.D. Mullane)