Thursday, May 16, 2013

What Is That Trophy Really Worth?

The debate over participation ribbons and trophies is alive and well. Should we reward effort in the same way we reward success? Does it matter to a child's self-esteem? I guess I wasn't surprised to hear that this debate continues to rage long after my children, the original recipients of the "participation" awards, have graduated from college.

Participation awards certainly have their genesis in good intentions, but it can be argued that the enemy of the best is the good. I went blog surfing to see what others think about this. Here are a few choice arguments I found:

From CuteMonster:

  • Giving a child an award without that hard work might lead to a false sense of what the real world is like. What if a high school junior doesn’t study for his SATs? Will he still get a good score? Will he get into a good college? The answer is likely no.
  • Working hard, regardless of winning or losing, should be celebrated.
  • . . .where I think we cross the line is when we award subjective winners, such as rating artistic events. There is a nuance to 'judging' that is lost on children.
  • I like the idea of "participation awards" that place a value on a child's willingness to devote time and effort. 
From Good & Bad Parents:
  • Why are we rewarding kids just for breathing? We need to stop rewarding kids just for participating.  This is teaching them that they should be rewarded without putting forth much effort.  They start to develop a sense of entitlement.  Children need to know that they need to work hard in order to be rewarded for anything.
From On the Pitch:
  • Just a thought for another option. Last season we took 3-ring binders, sheet protectors, and construction paper and put together scrap/yearbooks for our players. It’s a great way to save money, space, and memories and add a personal touch from the coaches. Not to mention letting the players see how they grow each season. Just wanted to offer that, good ideas on both sides of the issue, the most important thing is that the kids walk away with a positive experience, no matter how you decide to recognize them.
Is there a faith question lodged somewhere in this impassioned debate? I think there is, and I think the answer to that question renders this whole debate moot. Concern for trophies ties a child's worth to what he or she does. This is very much the view of our American culture: worth is tied to achievement. In the Kingdom of God, a child's (or adult's) worth is determined by what he or she is. So if your child's activity does, or does not, provide participation awards, your child's ultimate worth remains the same.

Here are a few thoughts on worth:

From Jesus:
  • Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.  (Matthew 10:29-31)
From Henri Nouwen:
  • But you have to pray. You have to listen to the voice who calls you the beloved, because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, for success. (Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World)
 No one has greater influence on a child’s sense of worth than parents! Let them know you and God love them for who they are, and not what they do. Your love is the trophy they covet most of all.

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