Saturday, August 13, 2011

Trophy Theory

Casey Stengel once said, "Most games are lost, not won," but with the way kids are wracking up the trophies - how can that lesson ever be taught?

I have this theory, and it involves trophies. You know - the typical cup variety you see on the left, or maybe it's got a guy holding a baseball bat, or a girl with a tennis racket. It might be a piece of marble or granite, with something etched onto a plate that is attached to the rock.

That "something" you can hold in your hands and say - "I'm special."

It's the hard core version of the gold star.

My theory is this - we are raising a new generation that is used to getting the trophies.

I don't mean the kind of trophy that you earn by winning, or doing an excellent job. I am talking about the participation variety. The one where every, single kid is lined up in the ceremony and receives recognition.
You might be thinking, "So what. I think that's nice."
I would respond - ABSOLUTELY NOT.  See, in my opinion, we are creating a generation that will never know how to cope with disappointment.

Let's wake up for just a minute. There will be winners and there will be losers, and the sooner you realize this, the better off we will all be.
I used to see this so often, especially with interns. These kids CLEARLY got the participation trophy. They were not used to being told: "NO," "Not Good Enough," and "Do it Over."

I get it - when you encourage, then the kid feels "better" about himself, the self-confidence rises, and he or she will.... get this.. here's the clincher ... like you for it.
It's so self serving. We are creating an entire population that is, and I hate to say this, just a little "softer" than their predecessors. What's to happen when they find they don't land a job right out of college? Or when people aren't raving about them more often, etc. Here's a secret kids... what the adults are saying, it's just to make you 'FEEL' better. Those compliments are just that.. nothing more, and nothing less.

Now I am not saying we should not encourage the kids. Absolutely. But there needs to be a few lessons in learning how to be a GOOD loser. It's okay to lose from time to time. It's okay to be disappointed.

After watching these reality shows like, "Dance Moms," and "Toddlers & Tiaras" and a few others... I just get sick to my stomach. I don't know which is worse - the pouting kids, or the psychotic parents trying to correct their past wrongs and live vicariously through their spawn.
It's okay to not win the pageant, or not be the fastest. I also think it is important to be picked last... just once, at least. It's okay to be told no, and to have to stand in the corner. That's the  job of the parent - to teach those life lessons.
But what I am seeing is the exact opposite. These kids are being coddled. They are growing up "expecting" to be given the trophy, and guess what? In real life - there are not enough trophies to go around.

Hard work, dedication, enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and a little compassion will take you far. Even so, there will be times in your life when the bottom falls out.  The question I have for you moms and dads, can your kid hack it?
I hate to say this, and it may come off as completely controversial - but let's talk Bullying for a minute. I have heard about bullying more and more in the past five years. Kids killing themselves over some scandal, or gossip or bully. Parents up in arms over the words kids throw around.. and I keep hearing how "Kids now a days are so mean.." etc. etc.
I don't think it's gotten worse. I think these kids are ill-equipped to handle the situation. We were all bullied. Back in my day (not that long ago... through out the 80s) - kids were mean as snakes. Sure, I was bullied. Called names.. picked on.. threatened to be "beat up" after school. I remember going home to my mom, begging her to take me to school, not make me take the bus because "so & so" wanted to fight me.
You know what she did? She made me get on that bus. You know what happened? Nothing.
But you better believe, I remember.. walking to that bus.. scared to death, but learning a few very valuable lessons.

 1. 9 times out of 10 - The bully's bark is worse than their bite. 
 2. I could survive scary situations 
 3. Usually I worried about nothing.

I like this PSA - it does an excellent job of teaching kids to stand up and cope.

Again - if you give everyone a trophy, how will they ever learn to deal with the pain of rejectio?. If you coddle your kids and try to fight their battles for them, how will they ever learn to stand up to the bully?

Kids who end their lives because they were picked on, clearly had deeper issues than just the words or threats from the other children. Teaching them to deal with despair, and sadness, and anger, and helping build up their self-confidence in a fair and just manner has GOT to be the answer.

"In play there are two pleasures for your choosing -
The one is winning, and the other losing."
~Lord Byron


Bossy Betty said...

Do I get a trophy for reading this? Shouldn't I? Where's my trophy?

Krystina said...

Stopping by from the LBS tea party and definitely got more than I bargained for.

It's not every day I come across a blog with legitimate messages that catch my attention. I normally stick to the design inspiration/recipe variety but I really enjoyed reading this post.

I was just having a conversation on this trophy/reality show subject the other day. See, I was brought up going to dance competitions... I'm now in my mid twenties and I have to admit- those trophies upon trophies I got growing up mean next to nothing. I went to a competitive dance studio that quite honestly was very reminiscent of the one on Dance Moms. So what's the difference? I was the girl that was always at the bottom of the pyramid. I worked my butt of in dance class because I loved it, not because I was always walking away with the high score that weekend. Just as you see on toddlers and tiara's, sure everyone gets a trophy, but all the girls know the ones that "count" are the overall high score trophies. Yup- absolute garbage! Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, when compared to perhaps those that were more successful, I'm the one that's actually still performing but now to make my living! Funny how that works. I've seen it happen time and time again, the trophy hungry get burnt out and end up doing something completely different. I have to admit- I do watch these shows. :/ That may be terrible and I have no excuse for my enjoyment of them. But I think it teaches me that I want to be a certain way with my kids. Hopefully they'll survive the crazy like I did!

Looking forward to stopping by more often. :)

Catherine said...

Very thoughtful post. I've never been a fan of trophy overload. I just saw an interesting stat that says American teens rank far lower than other countries in math and science profiency but are ranked #1 for their perception of how good they are at math and science. How messed up is that?

There's a really good book on the subject called Nurture Shock.

Thanks for the compelling reading, visiting from LBS.

Big D and Me said...

I agree 100% with you. My boys have participated in several sports and we have tons of trophies, ribbons, etc. Not only do they not need this, they don't appreciate it when they get one now. "Oh, another trophy." Kids need to learn that hard work pays off, not just showing up. I agree with you about the softer generation. Life is tough and if you've had adversity before you are probably better equipped to handle it.


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