Should Kids Get Trophies for ‘Everything?’
Should all kids get a trophy for participating in a sports league or competition? Some parents believe it's a good idea, but Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison doesn't.
Harrison has put out a message via Instagram stating he's forcing his 2 sons, ages 6 and 8, to return their "Best of the Batch" trophies because they didn't do anything to deserve them.
His message reads:
"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
According to child psychologist Steven Tobias of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown, New Jersey, giving every child a trophy for simply participating in a sport or competition is a bad idea.
"They know they don't deserve it, they know they haven't really done anything to earn it," he said, "so it really has a potentially detrimental effect on their self-esteem. When you give kids things they really haven't earned they don't really want to risk losing the positive acceptance they're getting from others so why try?"
He said kids will think to themselves "if I can get the award for doing nothing and then I really try and I fail, then I'm going to end up feeling worse about myself."
Tobias said while adults are well meaning and want all the participants to feel like winners, "kids aren't stupid."
"They look at their peers, they know who's good and who's not, they know who works hard and who doesn't work hard, they know who the good athletes are and who the smart kids are," he said. "You're really not going to fool them into thinking they deserve something that they haven't worked for."
Tobias said the intent on the part of the adults to build self-esteem is a good thing, and of course we want kids to feel good about themselves and feel they've accomplished things.
"But kids have to work at it, kids have to really have a real achievement and accomplishment and then get that feedback in order to feel good about themselves," he said.
According to Tobias, telling kids they're smart, they're beautiful, they're wonderful and they're terrific doesn't help them if that's not tied to any specific behavior.
"In fact it can make them feel very insecure because they don't know what they did to deserve that praise, and what they need to do to keep it going."
He said the world is very competitive and some parents feel their children have to be the best. However, we need to recognize that it's okay if they don't excel at everything.
"It's okay if kids aren't the best, it's okay if not everybody's gifted and athletically talented. It's okay for some kids to be a B student, assuming they work hard for that B," Tobias said. "We're wrong in always looking at the product, at the end result, and I really think we need to focus more on the effort that goes into things."