Winner takes all! Winners rule! Win, win, win baby! Is it really all about winning though? Do winners really take all? Should they? Much is made these days about winning…sometimes, even at all cost, according to some.
Most of you have probably read or heard about the “controversy” over giving kids recognition “just for showing up.” Basically, some people believe that kids need to learn early on that they must achieve to win — in other words, if you don’t cut it, it’s no one’s fault but your own, so deal with it. Kind of heartless, wouldn’t you say?
Over the last several years, many schools and community organizations have begun to give recognition to every child who competes in an event. Whether it be a sports/physical fitness event, an art exhibit or some other from of competition, educators and community organizers have made the decision to have some kind of recognition for every child, whether they come in first, or last. Of course, the winner(s) do get a higher form of recognition, such as a trophy or blue ribbon, but every child who participates also gets something, even if only a certificate of effort. Apparently, this has angered some and they become unhinged at the very idea that a child gets recognition for not winning.
Some refer to this trend as “participation trophies,” which in itself is misleading, because as we know, not all of the kids get a trophy. Opponents of recognition for all argue that awarding “them” is a form of over-protection for our children. These opponents contend that if we hand out “trophies” to every kid, no matter how poorly they performed, while they may not feel bad about losing, they’ll never actually experience failure, because they’re being recognized for not winning. Basically, opponents argue that these children will be rewarded for under-achieving and thus, never learn from it — they also maintain that this could lead to feelings of entitlement to a reward, simply for showing up. And there could be some validity to this…for some of these kids.
Maybe Not so Bad…
However, proponents of recognition to all argue that there is solid evidence in child psychology which proves the significant benefits of positive reinforcement, especially in younger children. Giving children, especially younger ones, a reward for their efforts is beneficial, because it teaches them the value of being present, active and contributing to a team. This builds character because younger children feel included and they see how important it is to be reliable and how the effort of every person is vital, even if they come in last.
I Happen to Agree
I agree with the side that advocates for recognition for all, especially for young children. Unfortunately, because some people are so passionate about this debate and approach, we often forget that the whole notion of “trophies for all,” really phases out as kids get older. Rarely do we see it with kids who are 15 or older. One important point that many forget is that not all kids have the same advantages. Take the 7 year old child who comes from a single parent house — perhaps their Mom or Dad works a lot because they’re the only care giver and the little one doesn’t get as much attention as he or she needs. Maybe in their house, there isn’t time or resources for taking dance or art class and quite possibly, they never get the opportunity to join the Cub Scouts, the town swim team, etc. Not every kid has advantages and lets be blunt…some kids have it really tough at home. So yes, they go to the school’s relay race and they come in last…which just makes them feel more isolated and less worthy than they did before. What harm does it to do give the first three over the finish line a trophy and then everyone else a certificate of effort? Imagine the benefits if this makes those less fortunate kids feel a little better about themselves?
But Some Will…
It’s fair to say that perhaps some kids will feel entitled and come to believe that they should get rewarded just for showing up…but it’s probably just a small number. And to be frank, it is after all, the parents job to teach them that they sill need to strive and work to get ahead. But if one-kid-in-ten feels this way, then its worth it for the benefits it gives the other nine.
Compassion, fairness, love and kindness are the most valuable resources in our world — I feel a person who would use the “winner takes all!” attitude with young children probably will never know that, so perhaps, when it comes right down to it, the winner really doesn’t take all.
“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” – Mother Teresa
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman
“Everybody is looking for validation, no matter who you are, and I think that’s a need of the human condition – to look for affection or recognition or validation.” – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu