The Truth About Trophies
Written by Millennial Crista Leonard
Keeping my 3, almost 4, year old busy is high on my priority list these days. Boredom equals whiney tantrums, which in turn equal driving me and anyone else unfortunate enough to witness it crazy. We have all been there. Whether experiencing it with our own kids, or witnessing it in a store or restaurant. It's not fun.
I always keep an eye out for activities that I think my 3 year old would enjoy. I decided dance lessons looked like fun. I took them when I was little, so I thought my daughter might like them too. Something else to keep her busy and avoid meltdowns. She has been taking them once a week since last February. She loves it! Score one for mom.
While the girls dance, all the moms and siblings sit in a small waiting room and chat and watch. I do a lot less chatting and watching, and a lot more of trying to keep my 17 month old out of the trashcan. The waiting room is decorated with pictures of the different teams, medals, and trophies.
At the end of class, I helped my daughter change back into her regular shoes. She got up and went over to the trophies. Some are small and some are almost as tall as she is. She points to one of the big ones and says, "I want to win a trophy like that one." I told her, "If you want to win a trophy, you have to practice really really hard. And you have to pay attention to the teacher while you are in class instead of goofing around and looking in the mirror." (She loves to look at herself in the mirror and gets distracted from what is being taught sometimes). That was my first response and my first thought. I didn't have to think about what to tell her or how I should say it as to not hurt her feelings because that is the truth. You have to work hard for a trophy.
Not everyone in my generation would agree. One of the other mom's jumped in right after I gave my bit on practicing and paying attention. She looked at my daughter and said, "Oh you are already well on your way to getting a trophy like that, I am sure!" It's like she felt bad about what I told my daughter and wanted to placate her or something. I interpreted it as, "Oh don't worry honey, you WILL win a trophy!" As if everyone is guaranteed a trophy whether they practice and pay attention or not.
I didn't respond to her comment, but it got me thinking. If this type of mindset is still believed, it looks like we will have another generation with the 'everyone gets a trophy because we all are special' mentality. Nooooooo!!!! We can't keep teaching our children that they don't have to work for a reward. I grew up in that generation. It was reinforced over and over. I remember when I was about 8 and my school had a fund raiser where we would jog laps and people would sponsor us money for each lap. It was a competition. Who could jog the most laps? I remember trying to beat the boys, one super fast boy in particular. I ran circles around most of the kids. Well guess what? We ALL got the same trophy at the awards night. I was so disappointed because I had ran a lot of laps. I expected to get something cooler than the other kids. While this 'everyone gets a trophy' mentality is a self-esteem booster for those who didn't do so hot, it discourages the kids who actually earned the trophy. The next time, they will probably not work as hard to do better than others because hey, what's the point? They will all be praised just the same. This is not how I want to raise my kids. I want them to learn the value of working hard for something they want. I want them to understand that a trophy must be earned through hard work and outshining your competitors. I also want them to learn that even if you don't win a trophy, it's ok. Not everyone is a winner. You can try again next time. The beauty is in the journey that you take to get there, it's not necessarily the trophy itself. And THAT is the truth about trophies.