When Should Kids Get Trophies?
I’ve been thinking about trophies. Think back to your own childhood, be it 5 years ago or, like mine, 30 or so years ago. For what sorts of activities did you get trophies or awards?
I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. I played slow pitch softball for a few years as a kid, and got nothing the first year because the Calumet Park Oranges softball team was really not very good. The second year, we won first or second place and got a trophy that I still have to this day. It was fun, and it was a big deal to us.
Moving on to high school…I played tennis and was extremely over-involved in other artsy-fartsy sorts of activities. I have no trophies or awards from choir, the numerous plays I was in, or any of that stuff. I have junior and varsity letters for tennis. But that’s it.
Point is: we only got trophies if we WON something.
Nowadays, it seems that kids get trophies merely for showing up. Every kid has to get something – or at least the parents feel that every kid has to get something. My son, who is almost 7, has 6 trophies in his room and he has yet to actually win anything. He loves his trophies and they were an obvious boost to his self-confidence. But still, the kid has not been the cream of the crop (yet) at soccer, or baseball, or whatnot. No championships, no first place, nothing!
A few months ago, I ran the elementary school talent show. It sounds like a minor project but 170 kids participated in 70 different acts. (Imagine the parent interactions I got to enjoy for the 30 days prior to this fun event). One of the conversations really stuck with me. I had sent an email out to all the parents letting them know that we were not sure what “award” the participants were going to get due to budgetary constraints. At a minimum, kids would get a cool medal with a ribbon, but we were hopeful to be able to afford trophies. For all 170 kids. I got an email back from a parent, saying that if there wasn’t budget for the trophies, that she would personally kick in $100-$200 so that all the kids could have a trophy instead of a medal.
Apparently, a medal was simply insufficient, and not reflective of the children’s effort and/or talent.
I thought, does it really matter that much whether it’s a ribbon or a trophy? Do children really feel entitled to a trophy for an event like this or would they be happy with whatever they received? Are we setting our kids up with perilously low expectations of what constitutes success? My parents raised me to understand that success was fueled by hard work, but did not necessarily EQUAL hard work. Can a feeling of accomplishment and achievement can be purchased with a trophy?
I’d like to hear your thoughts.While I’m happy my kid has some trophies, I can’t help but wonder if Yoda was right…there is no try. Do.
Gigi is a stay-at-home mom who has been involved in all things internet since 1997. Gigi combines her love of cooking with a snarky take on motherhood at her blog, KludgyMom.