There’s a growing trend that seems to have emerged in the last couple of decades; one in which the newer generations are rewarded simply for the effort of trying or showing up as opposed to receiving the rewards of accomplishing the goals through hard work.
If you’re like me and are either Generation X or Gen Y, you’re likely used to how things USED to be. That is to say, you didn’t get anything unless you accomplished the goal, you didn’t move on to the next grade in school unless you actually PASSED and you didn’t get trophies simply for showing up and playing the game. But for Millennials and Centennials, actually accomplishing something seems to be taking a back seat to being praised simply for trying. And I certainly don’t mean to paint all Millennials and Centennials with the same brush, so there’s no need for anyone to get offended (yet another issue with modern society!)
Look, I get it! Acknowledging one’s efforts can be extremely important and rewarding on its own. And it can feel good knowing that a teacher or a coach will still pat you on the back and assure you that “we’ll get it next time”. But the current world perspective may be creating a weaker generation of adults.
According to an article written by Ashuthi Kanneganti in the Queen’s University Journal, “The issue with participation trophies is they promote a disheartening concept: that failure is something to be ashamed of.”
Kanneganti goes on further to say, “Failure can shed light on our shortcomings, and making mistakes is necessary for personal growth.” And the article continues by describing how such practices leave children unprepared to face real life failures later on in life, such as college or university. Many of them have difficulty coping with these failures as they grew up without ever having to face them. (https://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2018-09-10/opinions/participation-trophies-are-creating-a-weaker-generation/)
Another interesting perspective is from Dr. Jonathan Fader, Sports Psychologist, who wrote an interesting article in Psychology Today, in which he explains how trophies and accolades may not be in the best interest of the winners or the losers; pride should be had in the win based on your effort and not the trophy at all! (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-new-you/201806/should-we-give-our-kids-participation-trophies)
So in a world where some schools in the world have adopted a No Child Left Behind mindset, where is the happy medium? Certainly, I was never a “sporty kid” while growing up. Health issues and lack of popularity saw to that. But as I trained in the martial arts, I remember the literal blood, sweat and tears that went into each and every belt rank I achieved. I also had the benefit of knowing that when I wore that belt, it was with the knowledge that I had earned that level of skill and I was entitled to wear that belt with pride, unlike some modern karate schools where you can earn a black belt in two years! (Which is impossible to do properly, by the way.)
Failing at things, regardless of what category of life they fell under, taught me the value and importance of recognizing my skill level and knowing what I had to work on. For most kids, if you reward them even if they failed or lost, you may be teaching them that trying isn’t all that important. After all, why exert yourself if you’ll get rewarded regardless of the outcome?
This has been a hot topic issue for a number of years now, and everyone falls to one side or the other; either they absolutely hate participation trophies or they totally endorse them. I, for one, will be teaching my son that if he wants that black belt, wants that trophy or wants that University degree, he will need to work his proverbial a$$ off and earn it. Otherwise, all we’ll be doing is watering down our society with generations who can’t handle the future. ☯