The grit and the grind of the Denver Broncos’ battle to reach Super Bowl 50 perfectly exemplifies the determination and will it takes to be a winner. Kia presented my favorite commercial of the football season. In it, Dad sees the “participation” label on his son’s trophy after his undefeated football season. He removes the plaque, takes out a sharpie and writes “Champs.”
Exemplary effort should be recognized and kids also must learn that every event or performance does NOT deserve a tangible reward.
Sometimes we put forth a huge amount of effort and we still fail to earn the desired outcome. We must teach our children to persist past disappointment. Losing or falling short is an opportunity to gain insight into weakness. In Super Bowl 48, the Denver Broncos, after getting trounced 43-8, rebuilt a team founded on a strong defense and 2 years later they will return to the Super Bowl as strong contenders. They identified a weakness in loss and quickly changed course and corrected.
Sometimes the reward is intrinsic, and yet, try to find a fundraiser today that doesn’t have some sort of tiered reward system attached to it. Selling Girl Scout cookies even has its array of toy rewards that accompany increasing cookie sales. When I as a Girl Scout in the 80’s, I sold cookies because I knew that we would earn money for the troop. That was reward enough. What happened to the days?
Today everything must be incentivized with a prize! And kids EXPECT a reward even for the smallest amount of effort. I mean, is there really any gratification in receiving a 6th place ribbon on Field Day? And how does 1st place differ from 6th place when everyone is receiving a ribbon?
In the “everyone’s a winner culture,” there is a sense of entitlement. I can show up, put forth a small amount of effort and I’ll still be rewarded. If loss is rewarded, is there really any reason for improvement?
Not everyone is a competitor and that is OK. Some people excel at working behind the scenes- “it takes all types,” as the saying goes. Can we please start to use losing as a teachable moment? And can we please start to teach our children that the rewards for charity events like Jump Rope for Heart are “helping kids who don’t have a strong heart and making your heart stronger too,” not collectible puppies on a string. Teaching our kids to persist past disappointment makes the victory so much sweeter.
What happens to all those participation trophies and ribbons, after all? Do you think your kids will remember what they “participated in” 10 or 20 years later? Not likely, but they will treasure the championship trophies and recognition of excellence. If it’s not sports, then help your child find his/her thing. Maybe it’s baking or sewing or dog training or reading. Everyone has a unique way to make a mark in this world. We will serve our kids better if we allow them to stumble and stammer their way to discovering their talents. And everyone will become a winner in their own time, if that’s what they desire.
Do you have a story to share about how you have helped your child persist through difficulty to become a winner?
Gina! I don’t disagree, I think it’s challenging because our culture prizes certain athletic prowess so highly it leaves other kids feeling like if they can’t be a part of this then they aren’t a part of anything. I think if there was a value of academic achievements, sewing as you mentioned etc, we wouldn’t have seen the same trend. Maybe we would have, but to be special in our current culture you must fit in a very narrow box. How do we expand that so that kids can actually feel as though their individual and unique contributions actually matter when so much of our culture tells them otherwise?
Thanks for your comment Dani. It’s up to us as parents to EXPAND the box way open and change what is prized and valued. And help our kids keep in perspective that very few will ever excel and reach the top in athletics.