When NFL linebacker, James Harrison, posted on Instagram that he would be sending back the trophies his sons’ received “until they earn a real trophy,” parents responded in uproars (Wallace). Today, children are given awards just for showing up, no matter if they win or lose or try their best. “Studies have shown that rewarding children just for participating can have a negative impact, producing a self-obsessed, irresponsible, and unmotivated generation of false achievers” (Grossman). The issue at hand is that, should children receive a participation award just for trying? Children should absolutely not receive a participation award just for trying. Trophies were once mementos to show victory, not participation.
One reason participation awards should not be given is that if every child receives an award then the children who actually try will eventually stop. If a child knows that they will receive a participation award no matter what; they will stop devoting themselves to try to better because they know they will receive the same award as the child who didn’t practice. The New York Times has said, “[T]hose who do well feel cheated when they aren't recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up,” (Merryman). Children play sports to prove to themselves that they are exceptional. When children receive a “real trophy” it boosts their confidence and makes them feel like they are exceptional. If children only receive participation awards it will destroy their confidence and it will make them feel like all their hard work didn’t matter. Lastly, if children feel this way, then they will stop playing that sport because they have no drive to do it. Ashley Merryman, author of The Science of Winning and Losing stated, “The benefit of competition isn’t actually winning. The benefit is improving. When you’re constantly giving a kid a trophy for everything they’re doing, you’re saying, I don’t care about improvement.”
Participation awards should not be given because they provide a false idea of how the “real world” works. Having children receive participation awards teaches them that they don’t have to try in the “real world”. In the “real world” you have to try your hardest to get what you want, and it will be a very rude awakening for kids who just slack off and expect things to just come to them. We need to teach children that in the “real world” you do not always get the trophy or win every game, that sometimes you lose, and that is okay. Men’s Journal has said that, “We have to get over the notion that everyone has to be a winner in the United States, it just isn't true.” (Grossman).
Some people say that children should receive participation awards. They say that if they give these awards to children they will feel good about themselves, and it will create a sense of equality in children (Changing the Game Project). These supporters say that the awards motivate children to play their best, but this is not the case. According to CNN, “A study earlier this year found that children whose parents overvalued them were more likely to develop narcissistic traits, such as superiority and entitlement two qualities that aren't necessarily going to benefit our kids when the going gets rough.” (Wallace). If a child always receives participation award, then that child will feel as though they DESERVE it, when really they didn’t put in the effort it takes to be rewarded. Parents think that it is their job to make sure that their children never feel hurt or upset, but it is okay for a child to not feel as though they are always the best at everything. Children need to know their strengths and their weaknesses, and if parents keep telling their children that they are good at everything they will be doing more harm than help for their children.
Life isn’t fair; and if every child received an award for just showing up, the award wouldn’t mean anything. Trophies were once rare things given to someone for achieving something truly special. Now trophies are almost a given (Merryman), a piece of plastic given to children at pizza parties after they finish the sports season. An award should represent all the countless hours that someone put in to be great; not a memento of appreciation.
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Merryman, Ashley. "Losing Is Good for You." New York Times. 25 Sep. 2013: A.29. SIRS
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