If you remember from my first blog, I like a neat house – not “Mommy Dearest” neat, just organized and (relatively) clutter-free. That being said, if every program that children participated in these days eliminated participation trophies, certificates, ribbons and plaques, I would have a much easier time keeping up with it.
My children are 5 and 7 and have already accumulated more “awards” than I ever had. I could likely stomach the clutter if they had received these awards due to their superior athletic and/or academic prowess. Were that the case, I could easily substitute my affinity for neatness with parental pride. Regrettably, however, they received the majority of these awards not for such accolades, but simply because they showed up.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for building self-confidence and making kids feel good about themselves…when they deserve it. I don’t think kids should be yelled at, belittled or be made to think that winning is everything. But, why can’t the experience of participating in the activity itself be enough? Why are kids given awards for merely showing up and trying? Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?
Last year, I coached my daughter’s soccer team. We had lots of fun. Girls who never played soccer learned about the game, new friends were made, and we lost LOTS of games. And guess what? At the end of the season I had to hand each player a personalized soccer trophy. When we got home my daughter asked me why we got a trophy when we only won one game. I had no answer.
Some of you may think I’m mean and that not every kid will be on a winning team or ever have a chance to win a trophy and so what harm does a participation award do. The harm is that it dilutes their understanding and appreciation of what it truly means to accomplish something. I think over time with hard work, every child will eventually find something that he or she is good at. They might not discover what they’re good at when they are 5, but that gives them the chance to explore the vast opportunities that are available to them. And when they do finally win an award for coming in first place at a swim meet, art contest, spelling bee or whatever activity they excel in, they can display that award with pride, knowing that they truly earned it.
If you don’t agree with me on that level, consider that eliminating participation awards will cut back on the amount of natural resources we use to create the endless numbers of trophies, certificates, and ribbons that inevitability end up in the trash … at least they do at my (relatively clutter-free) house.