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, lose, or try their best. Men’s Journal wrote an article on the benefits and disadvantages to rewarding children with participation awards, “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 children are receiving participation awards for everything and therefore lessening the meaning of the word trophy. Trophies were once mementos to show victory, not participation.
One reason participation awards should not be given is if every child receives an award, then the children who actually try will not be motivated. If a child knows that they will receive a participation award regardless, they will stop practicing because they know they will receive the same award as the child who didn’t practice. The New York Times stated, “[T]hose who do well feel cheated when they aren't recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up,” (Merryman). One reason children play sports is 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 extraordinary. If children only receive participation awards, their confidence will be destroyed, and it will make them feel like all their hard work did not matter, because that is how they are being rewarded. Lastly, if children feel this way, then they will stop playing that sport because they have no drive to participate. 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, this teaches them that they don’t have to try in the when they are older. In the real world everyone has to try their hardest to get what they 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 reality you do not always get the trophy or win every game, that sometimes you lose, and that is okay. Men’s Journal has said, “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 it is a good idea to give children participation awards. These people say that if they give these awards, children 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 do 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 a participation award, then that child will feel as though they DESERVE it, when really they did not 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; however, 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 weaknesses, and if parents keep telling their children that they are good at everything these parents will be doing more harm than help for their children.
Life's not fair; if every child received an award for just showing up, the award wouldn’t mean anything. Trophies were once rare treasure given to someone for achieving something truly special. Now trophies are almost a given, a piece of plastic given to children at pizza parties after they finish the sports season(Merryman). An a ward should represent all the countless hours that someone put in to be great; not a memento of appreciation.
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