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My Kids Do Not Deserve a Trophy for Every Little Thing They Do

Posted by on Jun. 10, 2013 at 9:20 AM
  • 10 Replies

My Kids Do Not Deserve a Trophy for Every Little Thing They Do

by Jenny Isenman


Here's how it goes … at 3, my kids won trophies for soccer, which I assure you were not deserved. How do I know? Um, there were times my daughter would stop kicking the ball to chase a dragon fly. And, I could be wrong, but I don't think my son was bending it like Beckham when he would pick up the ball with his hands and throw it to a friend mid-game. 

I know, it wasn't about them deserving their awards … they all get trophies -- because that's what we do to our millennial children, we make them think that they're the best at everything.  We praise them constantly and tell them everyone is a winner, leaving them little motivation, and little idea of what the real world is like.

My kids also have grandparents that kvell over their every move.

"Wow Jenny, I think Ry is going to be a ballerina, she's so graceful."

"Mom, she just tripped over another child."

"Yes, but did you see the way she broke her fall? Flawless."

"Wow did Jake make that poop? Why it looks like the Virgin Mary. Brilliant."

OK, no one has uttered that last one, but I wouldn't be surprised.

My daughter fully believes she sounds like Beyonce, because frankly, no one has ever told her otherwise. She's also pretty confident the mismatched Punky Brewster style stripe on stripe over-accessorized outfits she puts together will one day be her ticket to a career in fashion design.  We've all spent years marveling at her ability to whip up these ensembles that are so "modern" and "fashion forward" (which are nice ways of saying they clash so strongly they could cause seizures).

As my kids have grown, we've laid on the praise (thick). God forbid they feel unnoticed or lessor than any other child that has a trophy ceremony at least once a season. But lately I've tried to make an effort to tell them when they aren't good at something, because at the rate we're going, my daughter will be waiting for her acceptance to Harvard (where she's informed me she will be attending)  to come without her ever having to submit an application … hand delivered … by the dean … who caught wind of her design prowess, spelling abilities, and silky voice from Instagram and YouTube.

Which is why I was so happy to tell my son he's a bad artist. Yep, I said "bad," frankly I may have even said "crappy" or "sucky." And unlike his soccer trophy, he totally deserved it. He arrived home with a charcoal picture of a tree. But really, it looked more like a Rorschach test.

My mother-in-law, who happened to overhear my comment, immediately came to his defense, "It's not sucky, it's abstract.  Who would think to draw a tree shaped like a pear? And these squiggly lines give it so much movement. It's genius."

"It's not genius." I retorted, "He was trying to draw an actual tree. This is not his interpretation of a tree in a a hurricane being eaten by a snake, it just looks that way!"

She looked back at me ready to fight his case, but he just started cracking up at my analysis, "Thank you for not trying to tell me I'm sooo artsy." "You're welcome," I said making a face at his ugly tree as if to say, how could I, when you bring me home this junk? (He enjoyed the sarcasm and a well placed wink.)

What happened next is kind of insane, so prepare yourselves.  He didn't fall to the ground in tears, his chest didn't sink in defeat, his ego didn't implode, he actually seemed happy we had this understanding and he went on with his day as if I hadn't dealt him that crushing blow. I mean, he's been told he's brilliant at everything  for over a decade (and he does a lot of things really well), but it's nice to allow him to not be good at something that he already KNOWS he's not good at.

I was truly able to see that the constant praise isn't instilling a belief in his abilities, it's instilling a belief that I'm not a credible source.

Score one for the parent!!!

Now, I'm off to tell my daughter all the things she sucks at and when I'm done, I want my parenting trophy?

Do you think parents are going overboard with undeserved praise?

Or do you think children should get 'trophies' for everything they do?

by on Jun. 10, 2013 at 9:20 AM
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Replies (1-10):
kmath
by Silver Member on Jun. 10, 2013 at 2:14 PM
1 mom liked this

I hate the whole idea of everyone getting a trophy.  It is one of my pet peeves.  Yes, kids need encouragement, but they also need a dose of reality.  Not everyone is the same, some people are better than others at certain things.  Giving every kid a trophy does them all a disservice.  The ones who earned the trophy are made to feel like they aren't doing any better than the ones who got them just because.  Some of these kids get discouraged and will quit trying as hard because there is no point.  The ones who got them just because don't feel the need to work harder and improve themselves because they will get a trophy anyway.  It is a lose-lose situation in my opinion. 

lucsch
by on Jun. 10, 2013 at 2:39 PM

I think there is a balance. I would never tell my child they did something "sucky". Instead I'd look for something positive to say--without lying--and use other opportunities to help build their skills. That little boy will probably never draw again--instead he will choose to do things he thinks he can do.

My dd got a trophy, with her name on it, for participating in dance for 5 years. I think that it was earned. No, she isn't the best dancer, but she knows she didn't get the trophy for being "best". She got it for perserverance and determination. One reason girls do stick with it is they look forward to the 3-year medal, the 5-year trophy and the 10-year gift.

bluerooffarm
by Gold Member on Jun. 10, 2013 at 2:46 PM

 

Quoting lucsch:

I think there is a balance. I would never tell my child they did something "sucky". Instead I'd look for something positive to say--without lying--and use other opportunities to help build their skills. That little boy will probably never draw again--instead he will choose to do things he thinks he can do.

My dd got a trophy, with her name on it, for participating in dance for 5 years. I think that it was earned. No, she isn't the best dancer, but she knows she didn't get the trophy for being "best". She got it for perserverance and determination. One reason girls do stick with it is they look forward to the 3-year medal, the 5-year trophy and the 10-year gift.

 This exactly.  I couldn't think of such a nice way of saying it.  :-)

somuchlove4U
by Bronze Member on Jun. 10, 2013 at 3:02 PM
I agree that children don't need trophies for everything. I don't agree with the negative reaction. When my daughter draws and it's not so great I will still encourage her. I could never say you suck or your bad at something. I do my best to put a positive spin on the situation.
Jenn8604
by Member on Jun. 10, 2013 at 3:10 PM
And the author of this may cause her dd, who she had to go tell she sucks, to become depressed thinking she's not good enough at anything and she sucks and goes and kills herself. gee I wonder what the author would say when she finds the suicide note since I just plain suck at everything I ended it all.

I will NEVER tell my kid he sucks or anything like that. Practice practice practice if you want to be great at anything. Encourage him to do the things he's good at and if he isn't an artist tell him that is ok. he will find his niche.
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usmom3
by BJ on Jun. 10, 2013 at 3:35 PM
2 moms liked this

I don't think a parent should give undeserved praise & I don't think a child should get a trophy for everything they do, but I also don't think a Mother should tell there child that their art or anything else sucks or is crappy! There is a middle ground to all of that & she needs to find it & quick before she dose damage to her child in the other direction!

hwblyf
by Silver Member on Jun. 12, 2013 at 10:14 AM

I think kids know when they suck at something, that's all she's saying.  I have kids who have tried to open an art store and sell me something that they honestly scribbled with no thought, no effort, and maybe 5 seconds of time.  $20.  No.  Those are not even done with an ounce of effort.  I don't think she's advocating breaking your kid, but be honest.  The child already knows, are you willing to be honest and loving with your kid?  Personally, I think she did a great thing.  Telling your child they're not good at something isn't harmful, it's truthful.

Dawn07
by Bronze Member on Jun. 12, 2013 at 12:16 PM
I think when kids get to a certain age they can tell when a parent/adult is being honest or when they are lying and stroking their ego. Kids will respect honesty.
Mandallyn
by Member on Jun. 12, 2013 at 1:53 PM

My kids don't get undeserved praise, they get unenthusiastic praise.  "Oh yeah, I see."  "Oh yeah... that's nice."  With that unenthusiastic praise they get advice on how to do better the next time, whether it be artwork, throwing/catching a baseball, or a 'look at this' moment.  And when they actually do something worth praise they get an excited "Wow!  Great job!", "That's awesome, baby!"  

I do think kids on a team deserve trophies if their team does something worth getting a trophy for.  That's the entire point of teamwork after all. So if the team goes an entire season undefeated, or wins a tournament and gets a trophy (and if the coaches plan to hand out trophies as a memento) I don't see the harm in every child getting a small trophy and something nice said about them.  I also don't see the harm in the MVP getting a larger trophy because they did the best (IMO seeing this would make others want to strive harder to do better).  I don't see a problem with children getting a ribbon for participating in a team that didn't do well, but I don't see the point in getting a trophy for a losing team.  There aren't many sports where being on a team isn't emphasized, but for sports where it's an individual vs individual I think the best should get the biggest.  They worked hard for it, they deserve it.

No_Difference
by Silver Member on Jun. 12, 2013 at 3:16 PM
1 mom liked this

 I get very annoyed at the every kid gets a trophy thing... We're a very blunt family and we tell the kids straight up if they're not great at something, but then we give constructive criticsim, the kids try again, and we let them know if they've improved. It has worked well so far, and my kids' spirits have not been crushed in anyway. With my daughter, everyone told her she's an art genius, and she is now so convinced of it, that its all she wants to do with her life. In reality...she does suck. I love her, but her art is horrible. Half the time it's some concoction of ripped up paper glued together, and she'll announce it is a windmill, and even thinking abstractly, it looks like a dripping mass of glued paper with no shape or form. Trying to steer her away from the world of art as her main focus has been a nightmare, and trying to help her become better at this passion of hers has been frustrating at best. She is so warped into thinking she's great, that she won't budge from what she is doing.

Now, her swim team - everyone gets a ribbon if they participate, but I say that some what loosely. There are the younger kids who swim, but their go at it does not count for the team. Our particular team will give those swimmers a Participant rainbow ribbon. For other kids, whose event DOES count, they have ribbons up to 6th place, so really...everyone gets a ribbon (this is for all the teams)... The only time they do not get a ribbon, is if they were disqualified. Then, they just have to accept the fact that they did something wrong and didn't get the ribbon. In this sense, I'm okay with the "everyone gets an award". Their times are on the back of the ribbon, and they can see where they need to improve from there too.

If our team wins a meet, then the kids get a pool party the next practice instead of an actual practice, so the team as a whole gets to celebrate. I have no idea if there is at any point for summer swim a divisional champion or not...(I didn't pay that close attention last year, but even if there was, I don't think our team won it lol)

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