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June 04, 2012



I couldn't agree more. As a former corporate world employee turned educator, I wonder sometimes how our kids are going to learn to function in the real world. Children are so used to hearing that they do everything well (even when they don't) that they don't know how to accept criticism, much less grow from it. I actually had a parent once inform me that I had made their 11 year old suicidal (literally) because I used red ink to make grammatical changes on a writing assignment. That kid better never be an attorney because the mark-ups he'll receive from a senior partner will be more than enough to push him over the edge. So many people point to the self-esteem issue: "I don't want my child to feel bad about himself because he couldn't do XYZ." My theory as both a parent and an educator is I'd rather have them feel a bit of self-doubt now when they can still learn from their mistakes and develop a strong work ethic than feel the insecurity they will have at the age of 45 when they're sleeping on my couch and pushing shopping carts for a living. Picking one's self by one's bootstraps is becoming a lost skill but one I wish to maintain in my children if I want to do the best I can for them.




My son has been involved in just about every sport there is. His room was becoming over run with trophies. I asked him if we could pick some of them to put away. He picked some to put away and some to throw away. I asked him why he wanted to throw them away. He told me they don't mean anything. Everyone got a trophy just for showing up. He only wanted to keep the ones he won for actually being good.
I think the trophies are more to make the parents feel good. The kids have caught on the the little game. Maybe when they are very little like maybe 5, then they all like to have a trophy. But as they get older they realize that the trophy they got for playing soccer when they were 5 means nothing. My nephew cried when he got his first trophy for racing dirt bikes. He came in third. Not bad for his first race. He cried because everyone got a trophy and they were all the exact same trophy. So his third place meant nothing more than coming in last place.
We are in for some serious trouble when these kids get older. They think that they all deserve to have a super job just handed to them. One person that does a great job will get the same raise as the person that comes to work late every day, if he even shows up at all. Our kids are going to think they are entitled to everything they want. They aren't going to know how to work for anything.


Actually, there are lots of studies by trained child psychologists and education experts saying that it's better to praise a child's efforts than only praise positive results. Here's a recent article about this in Harvard Business Review:



I agree completely they are not allowing children to learn how to deal with losing. If every child receives a trophy it is unfair to the child that worked the hardest and won, it diminishes there win. Why work harder if everyone gets the same reward? Even as an adult if you are doing extra work and going above and beyond your responsibilities at work but it goes unnoticed and you are treated the same as a person that doesn't even complete there work eventually you will stop trying. I feel it also teaches children they should get something for nothing. My employer recently hired a young man in his early twenties after working two days he said he was going to need a gas card, a company vehicle and a phone for work. Now I could understand this if he was actually working but so far all he had done was try to tell the other employees what to do and giving them the wrong information. Did I mention he was supposed to be a helper/ laborer not a foreman. My point is we are raising a bunch of children that think they know everything and should get raises, bonuses, etc, just for showing up to work. As parents our job is to prepare our children for the real world even if sometimes you have to be mean. Parenting is harder than I thought it would be, sometimes its really hard to dissapoint your child and you never want to see them hurt or upset but its a part of life everyone must deal with.


I couldn't agree more!!! It's nice to hear from someone else with my same views.

Janet B

Kudos to you for putting this topic out there. You are absolutely right! Rewards, trophies and praise are excessive and have become an expectation for children rather than a coveted prize to work towards. I recently attended an award ceremony where every child who submitted an idea to a particular contest received a certificate, not just the child with the winning entry! Of course we should commend children for extending themselves, for trying hard and doing their best. But there is usually only one winner and that's okay. This generation of children is being done a disservice - they are woefully unprepared for the real world where not everyone gets the job they are going after, not everyone gets that promotion, and hard work and perseverence through your challenges is still what is needed to be successful both professionally and personally. Life has successes and failures and children need to be taught how to handle both with grace and humility--for their own sake.

Katie H

I think the best praise/reward is earned. Those who did the best deserve to be acknowledged. They earned it! I also think that it's a good idea to praise efforts but only if they _actually_ tried. I think that false praise is hurtful to kids. We have adults, now, who think they deserve raises, praise, and special awards for showing up to work on time...they didn't do anything special. They simply did what they were paid to do but they expect an award for it! ridiculous!


It isn't just our kids that feel as if they are entitled for mediocrity. Look at the state of the Union. Welfare abuses, arguments for increased taxes on the rich, unions, quotas for minorities, bilingualism, the records of our schools vs. the schools of other countries. We as a nation, not just parents, have forgotten how to work hard for what we want, and to accept that if we didn't do our best, we don't get what the other guy has. We have forgotten the lessons of our grandparents and forefathers. But I won't blame the parents of today. It has been happening for a while. We just need to return to hard work values in this country.


Amen! I couldn't agree more! My daughter is only 6 months old but I am dreading the "everybody gets a trophy" world she is going to grow up in. Losing and being out played by fellow teammates, receiving constructive feedback on homework/papers, and having self awareness on my strengths and weaknesses is what made me work harder in sports, school, my career, my marriage and now parenting. Society is not teaching kids to be leaders or how to deal with adversity and I see it in the workplace now. There is this sense of entitlement where people expect to show up to work and make $100k a year. My parents raised me with the goal that I would be a successful adult and I intend to have the same goal so there won't be any "participation trophies" in my house.


Absolutely agree. A healthy balance of feedback is what kids need instead of praise for minimal effort. I coach 11/12 year old boys lacrosse. Our program gives out a trophy to one boy on each team who best displays consistent sportsmanship and team work. When that was announced, there were more than a few groans. Then one said, this was "the worst day in my life".


I think there has to be both -- a healthy balance betwen the two. Yes, the need to learn how to work hard and have some competitiveness. However, if they never win at anything or praised -- they grow up with low self esteem and think that no matter how hard they try, they can never be better at someone else or good enough.

Robster TN

Kudos to you! I teach at the college level and I am seeing the effect that the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality does to our kids. I literally have dozens of students who believe they are entitled to a passing grade just for showing up to class, see failing grades for sub-par work as "unfair," and have delusions that they should be able to walk out of college into the perfect job making a huge salary. When I worked in law enforcement, we consistently encountered young officers who believed that they should make rank or special assignments after only a few months on the job. They became disgruntled because they felt the department was being "unfair" and they would quit within 12 to 24 months.

The message here is not that we don't always encourage our kids as one other post suggests. In fact, it is imperative that we encourage them more when they struggle with their defeats and failures. This teaches them that they can survive tough situations and how to make themselves better people due to their struggles. Giving a kid a trophy just for showing up only teaches that reward comes from just showing up and not working hard to excel. Is that "fair" for kids? That depends on one's definition of fairness, but as the old saying goes, life isn't fair. It's our job to prepare our kids for that unfortunate reality and give them the tools and confidence to adapt and overcome when lif throws them a curve ball.


I am SO relieved to hear someone from the corporate world say this. This whole "everyone gets a trophy" mentality is ruining our country. What did all of our parents tell us as kids? "Life's not fair." We were taught that if we work hard, we will succeed.
This "fairness" crap has worked its way into college sports now and it's ticking me off. Have you noticed how many bowl games there are now? In my opinion, it's for the same reasons. The NCAA Basketball tournament used to be 64 teams, now it's 68 and they're talking of expanding further.
My son will learn that if he fails at something, he will get the opportunity to learn a lesson from it, but I doubt he'll get another 5-10 chances to pass it.


Thanks very much for putting this out there. I couldn't agree more. My only caveat is that there is surely still room for praise for the kid who finishes second (or last) but who nonetheless put in a legitimately great effort. Just no trophy! (Contrast that with the kid who didn't put in the effort at all or who had a bad day, who deserves neither an award nor praise!)


I think there can be a balance and place for both. I think we adults tend to fantasize that child rearing was better when we were growing up. Sometimes change is better and are kids are smarter than we think. They are on to us. My children play youth baseball and football competively. They are smart and know the difference between getting a participation trophy and getting a Championship trophey.The ultimate goal is to get the Championship trophy and those are always larger than the participation trophy. There are times as a parent that I know they did not put this is not ever lost on them their best foot forward and I will tell them so. I also know that sometimes they just had a bad game with all the best intentions and the last thing they need from me is to point out all of their failures on the drive home. The baseball and football season require multiple practices and up to two games a week. There ought to be a participation trophy for THAT!! In fact I should get one.




I think part of the problem is the TYPE of praise given. Children hear way too much about how great they are and good job, excellent, etc. But so much of that is empty praise and not specific to what they've actually done. In my field (early childhood special ed), there's a big push to reinforce the action rather than the child. For example, "You did it! You came to circle time!" This reinforces the desired behavior without giving the child the inflated ego of "You're so wonderful" kind of language. When kids hear how great they are for so long, they wonder what they've done wrong when it stops. As far as "participation" trophies and worrying about kids never feeling good about themselves, then parents should take on the responsibility to find an activity that they ARE good at and do enjoy, then they will have more of the intrinsic motivation. We shouldn't force our children into things just because everyone else is doing them. Why do they have to play soccer? Maybe they aren't good at it. So instead of waiting around for a participation trophy, time would be better served finding something else for your child to do and enjoy.


Oh, I dont know. We handed out trophies back in the day too. I liked to look at them over the years and see what I did each year.

Certainly the 1st place trophies were the largest. That doesn't mean that the 1st year pee wee football trophy still didn't hold a place in my heart.

I look at it today and it makes me think of my old man coming to all my games. Only now, as i fight in traffic to get home do I see the effort he would have had to have made to be at all of them.


This is so right on. I read a really interesting article in the Atlantic Monthly awhile back which sheds light on how this "everyone gets a trophy" approach to making our children happy is actually making for some pretty unhappy, unfulfilled adults.


Encouragement is one thing. Gifts and rewards "just for being" is another thing completely. Growing up the youngest of 10 kids, I didn't get gifts on my siblings' birthdays -- it was their special day and I had to wait my turn. I see all too often that people want to make sure no kids have to face the disappointment of not getting what every other kid gets, when that kid gets it. If we don't condition them to think they should, then they'll get over it really quickly. They have to learn to enjoy other people's moments and successes and look for ways to achieve those things for themselves. It will mean so much more when they do.

Tenya Losching

Kudos to you for speaking up and saying what too many are afraid to. I believe that there are many parents out there with the same views only too afraid to promote them! This next generation is going to be filled with over indulged, self entitled adults that have a false sense of what the "real world" is really all about!


The field of education has become a place of cooperation. Studies have shown that cooperative education is far more productive in the education of our children than a competitive education. Not everyone is a winner and for the most part, It's only the few who win. An education that lowers the self-esteem of the students in a competitive environment does nothing to create viable civil members of society. If the team worked together than they are all winners deserving of a trophy.


As a coach, I do prize effort more than talent. Hence, I may appear as those coaches mentioned so many times in this blog that allegedly give too many prizes for "nothing".
Not all kids come equipped with the same natural skills. Does this mean we should prize only those lucky kids that are faster or stronger or more coordinated and demoralize others because mother nature was less generous to them? what good it does to tell a less physically endowed kids "you could do better"?
A video is circulating over You Tube of a kids with CP being cheered by his teammates to finish a 800 mt school race. He was last but I would surely have given him gold!

Have a look at the video:


Prizing effort and not necessarily the result. I guess I do not think like a CEO, aka I do not only look at the bottom line.


I agree whole heartedly. I was actually told to stop working so hard so my coworker could justify all his over time. I worked hard during my shift (aka actually working during my hours) so I could go home on time. Guess others didn't appreciate that.

But now I'm curious to know how this came into common practice if so many people disagree with it and how is it still going on? And who's paying for all these trophies? If so many people don't like it and they are paying for their kids to play, then shouldn't they be able to say "No more of this!"?


Wow! Well said. It's refreshing to know there are other parents out there raising their kids the same way my husband and I are. For Mother's Day, I received a card from my 11 yr. old daughter and one of the things she wrote was "Sometimes I think you're very harsh at telling me things I didn't do right but I don't regret it since it has gotten me very far." What 11 yr old writes this? Glad it was my child. Although you never know if what you say actually reaches your child, it does...they just may never show it, but will let you know subtly one day--like in a card. Agree totally with the philosophy that things are earned and rewards are for a job well done! How many adults can raise their hands and say they got a raise when their employer hinted that they need to step it up? I want my children to ALWAYS strive for their best and as adults, if they've done their best, they will be rewarded. It shouldn't be any different as kids.


I agree. I keep saying this. There's this whole psychology to parenting now that has gone in the polar opposite direction of abuse...no one should be abused but over praise and never allowing them to feel bad about a lack of effort and focus is just as abusive as putting them down. How are we to raise resilent children to adults if they have no idea how it feels to deal with failure. There has to be a middle ground, some place where it is safe for parent and child to work through this, to develop real life skills. We are creating a generation of Disneyland kids and parents where everything works out in the end. I say this so passionately because my daughter is in Special Ed. She has an IEP. I told the whole team that works with here that they give her a lot of praise for NOT BEING ABLE TO DO THINGS. She gets a lot of attention for having difficulty and I told them to stop. Lets just say she has improved and is showing them how really smart she is even though she has a very difficult time with communication. The "dumb girl" thing doesn't go over with Mama because I know better! Her Karate teacher makes her work...she could count to 10 in Japanese before she could count in English. I believe they need to learn the JOY of accomplishment through struggle, not abuse, and for sure not over-praise. When you give anything too much water it will suffocate and if you don't give it any at all it will starve. You have to find the right amount so that it will thrive in all conditions.


hi -i read your all messages and i thanks for it.now i know what i have to do .
after tomorrow i have a meeting with other women and we will talk about children and how to let them be happy and i want you to send me and tell me what shall i do or what i have to say. thanks for every thing


I think age has a lot to do with it too. When children are little, it's really important to build confidence and praise them above and beyond, so that they'll have the courage to tackle the tough stuff, but as they get older, it's important to be constructive. I think a lot of people are replacing love with praise. I'm not going to reward you for doing what you were supposed to do or for doing less than what we were working towards (i.e. losing the soccer game). That being said, I will make sure that you know that I love you regardless. I'm not going to be hard on you for falling short..we all fall short at some point. But you will now that despite not being the best, you still have all of my love and support.


I love this idea. I have two kids, one is almost 13 and the other only 2. I see how I am building the youngest's self-esteem by clapping and cheering her successes, but tempering how I urge my older child to do the best he can. Its a balancing act and by having a second one so much later I see the value in building a strong self-esteem while they are young so they can tolerate some inevitable disappointments later. They will encounter these and by helping them strive to be better I feel that is the best parenting.


I couldn't agree more and we try to give those messages to our child who is only five.. But how do you convince the teachers and coaches to do the same? My child is only five but he wants that trophy and I worry that he has come to expect this as reality. How do we as parents overcome this age of "over praise"? I always feel like I am a harsh mom compared to the other moms, coaches or teachers and wonder if others do too just as the author did at the end of the article?


My son knows when he does bad without being told . Children are not stupid and watch other kids and see what they need to do to improve. In sports anyway. And if they don't care enough to improve perhaps their not interested. Parents forcing things on kids make me more upset then to much praise. There is nothing wrong with a trophy to say thanks for playing we hope to see you back next year. Even if it's a team with a "losing record" because they know when they lose and that hurts enough. Give them some credit with their intelligence. Children that are criticized learn to criticize. Enjoy your children and stop anticipating a future that you can't predict.


I'm not sure what secret other parents have. Maybe it's "If you do this, then I'll get you that and NOT UNTIL!!" We probably give our kids too much. But I also agree that sometimes kids need a push or help (like with Math). Some kids are further along (how nice for those parents) When kids become adolescents, they are less likely to come to you for help. Sure you need to chew them out, but go a step further to help them. They don't stop needing help when school gets harder. However, if you're simply not there, I really don't have an answer.


There is a HUGE difference between "cooperative education" and telling them that just breathing in the classroom makes entitles them to something.

I teach high school and I can't tell you how many kids want a "good grade" because they "did it." Big deal. You wrote 5 barely connected sentences on a piece of paper. THAT is a far cry from a coherent paragraph, my friend.

Education is NOT competitive when we have standards that a student must meet. If Susie exceeds expectations, she will receive a mark that indicates that. If Sara meets expectations, her mark will be lower than Susie's... but they aren't in competition.

Kids know when we are blowing sunshine up their skirts. They know when they actually TRIED and when they went through the motions... and when we fall all over ourselves telling them "good job sweetie pie" they resent US and themselves.

Sometimes your best ain't good enough. That's life. I will never be an Olympic sprinter. NEVER. I would have zero respect for someone who told me with enough hard work and practice that I could be.

They understand deceit. And they resent us for it.

Andrea Armstrong

I agree completely! It seems that this is a growing topic of discussion as of late--too much praise for too little accomplishment. I believe that too much praise and not enough honesty breeds children to be overconfident in their abilities. This type of reward system doesn't prepare children for times when they fail at something. And they will fail at something somewhere along the road. On the flip side, I do believe it's very important for children to gain self-confidence but it needs to be gained honestly. They should also gain good self-esteem. I'm not saying that kids shouldn't be rewarded but they reward should be earned. It's like learning the value of money. If kids are constantly handed things without having to work for anything, they don't value the things. So many kids have iPhones today. If they lose it or break it, many times they just get a new one. If they had to pay the $200 for the iPhone they'll probably take better care of it. Hence, if they're only rewarded for something when it's meritted, then it's possible they'll try harder at something in an effort to receive the reward. My hope is that because this topic seems so prevalent that maybe as a society we're making a move back to rewarding people only for those efforts that actually deserve a reward. I'll keep my fingers crossed.


I have a 6 year old step daughter. I have been chewed out by her grandmother before because I ate a piece of candy and said she couldn't have one. Well, let me tell you what: life is NOT fair. You don't get into the best law school without the grades. You don't get a promotion if you're always late. You don't get respect in the real world unless you can back it up. You don't get a jolly rancher before the wedding pictures are taken if you're wearing a white dress and have a history of spilling and dropping things. By the same token, she GUESSES on everything. It doesn't matter how many times we ask her to sound it out, or to think before she answers, to look for the answer in her brain as opposed to expecting the answer to leap out of her mouth on its own. I think that Harvard Review article posted above has given us a new direction to take with her. It's the best way I have ever heard of putting what I have said to her often (and harsh though it may be, it's the honest truth and I try my best not to lie to anyone, children included), "People want to be around interesting people. Interesting people are the ones who can FIND the right answer on their own, who can come up with new ideas and be creative, and who are willing to grow, learn, and try new things. People don't want to be around lazy people who want to guess until they find the answer in someone else's brain. They don't want to go to restaurants with people who will only eat spaghetti. If you want to be one of the interesting ones you have to work. You have to DO things yourself... You can't wait for someone else to do it for you." This speech, much like my father's famed tolerance lecture, has been given many times and I'm sure will be given many more. Now it is usually followed by, "Try the avocado," "Please sound it out instead of guessing. I'll help you. PPPPLLLLLLLAAAAASSSSSTTTTTIIIIIIICCCCC," or "I appreciate you finding your own shoes in advance so I can have time to finish dinner." Unfortunately she does not receive any sort of direction like this in her regular home. She is encouraged to play sports she shows no aptitude for or particular liking of, she is told how wonderful and good she is, and at this point she is trying the same things she used to get attention way back when over and over again to get it now. It's sad to hear a six year old repeat, "2+2 is 4," for the seventh or eighth time in a single ride to the grocery. She IS smart, and it almost feels like those that over praise her "innate ability" are ruining her wonderful little brain. I think you can be as smart as Einstein, but without the ability and willingness to learn and try new things, you lose tremendous VALUE as a person. Value, not intelligence, is where self-esteem comes from. Read, "I can get it done for you tomorrow," as opposed to, "I can't finish this." It's that measure of self-sufficiency children are lacking. I've never seen that kiddo more proud of herself than when she hopped into the car after camp yesterday and said, "I did my own sunscreen with dimes and quarters [different amounts for arms and legs] just like you showed me and bug spray, too! I put the ear dry in my ears and I got dressed the fastest because I put my arms through first, and I did my own ponytail. I made the lobster claw with the red band and it worked. The counselor asked if I needed help and I told her no because I'm SELFAFISCANT!" Who ever thought that doing a morning routine after a swimming lesson could be so gratifying? Well, a six year old did. She was very happy with my answer, which of course involved a good amount of tickling. "Are there any sunburns on your arms? Your ribs? What about bug bites?? There's tangles in your hair I see, but that's because you had fun today. Do your ears hurt? No? Is your shirt on the right way? Well done! I'd say you had great success!!!" The next thing she wanted to do? "Let's play catch. You said you'd help me learn how to throw straighter. Where's that thingymabob with the velcro? Let's play." She's improving rapidly... I think next year she should go out for softball instead of soccer.


[The field of education has become a place of cooperation. Studies have shown that cooperative education is far more productive in the education of our children than a competitive education. Not everyone is a winner and for the most part, It's only the few who win. An education that lowers the self-esteem of the students in a competitive environment does nothing to create viable civil members of society. If the team worked together than they are all winners deserving of a trophy.]

I think that the presentation of "participation trophy" does influence the team mentality rather than the individual especially in "team sports" (there are individual sports out there as well) the one-ism is exactly what is bringing down rather than raising our country today the attitude that "I" did it so "I" deserve to be compensated so much more than you. I would love to see the "CEO" who can do every job to make a company successful by his or her self. Everyone’s efforts are important and if the only way someone can succeed is by feeling that they are better than the next person ... I think we have a bigger problem than we realize. While I don’t agree with false praise, the idea of overindulgent individual praise bugs me just as much.


Thanks, Sheila, for saying something that I think many parents think but are unwilling to say. I just wrote about this issue on my own blog (http://itsmommyjuice.com/2012/05/17/ballet-class-ticks-me-off/) after a week of showering my 5-year old with accolades for essentially "showing up." Showing up to preschool. Showing up to Ballet class. It's not that hard to show up when you have a built in taxi-service called your parents. Bravo for writing this. I'm happy to see it!


There are treasures learned from losing and winning...and in both times, a parent (or parents) needs to observe and give praise to what the child did well on. At the same time, the parent needs to remind the child the "lesson learned" during that experience.

This weekend was a reminder for me. My nephew competed and won the world juijitsu championship in his category two years in a row. I commended him on the fact that after all this time, he remained humble. He worried about his teammates. He made sure that he stuck to the end to support every one.

I read the facebook entries of his teammates that didn't quite make it this year. Just as my nephew was graceful in his win, his losing teammates were graceful in their losing. Both ends made a commitment to train harder for next year.

It reminded me of a time when I was competing myself. In the celebration party, I was asked about my experiences when I competed (journalism, debate, science bowls, etc). I told them that I have a good share of wins and losses, but I've learned and become stronger each time. And the more that I know, the more that I realize that I don't know much...and therefore, one strives to be better each time.

I told all of them (my nephew and his teammates) that I was very proud and humbled to see them...their camaraderie...their passion for the sport...their search for excellence... It makes me happy to see that sportsmanship, compassion, and humility are very much alive within them. I told them to stay graceful no matter what happens, and the universe has its quirky way of rewarding such people.

There's a difference between self-confidence and cockiness...which I think the article above touches upon. You'd want your children to be self-confident...knowing that they can do it, enjoying the experience, opening themselves up to new people and experiences, reaping the rewards of their success, and taking in the lessons that needed to be learned through each experience.


Thanks Megan for posting the Dweck study!
This is a bigger issue than receiving rewards or trophies.
It's about raising children with self esteem by pointing out their strengths
along the journey not just praise for end results and accomplishments.
A child who is grounded in self worth can see the value of receiving a trophy or not.


I run a youth basketball league and this is constant issue. We have a tournament at the end of the year and the parents are very concerned that not everyone will get a trophy. I have compromised with large first and second place trophies and ribbons or medals that say "participant" for the teams that finish lower then that. This seems to satisfy the parents and the kids. But I concur wholeheartedly with your comments. I tell my kids when I think they are phoning it in. They used to give me this sort of hurt look but I follow it up with hey, when I tell you I think you did well, you'll know I meant it. When I coach, I praise effort just as much (if not more) then results. Coaching studies have shown that long term, the "superstars" of elementary sports often do not survive into the next level because they have never had to put in the effort-it all came easy becuase they happened to be big or fast young. The kids who are maybe the 3rd, 4th, or 5th best players make the next level because they have learned to work hard, deal with failure, and come back harder the next time. That is what failing teaches you and not letting your kids get that fire in their belly because you as a parent can't stand to see them sad is a real injustice to the child.


I agree somewhat, but not entirely. I actually think that we need to teach kids to work hard and strive for success (in whatever endeavor) because it provides them with a feeling a self-worth and builds self-esteem, but not because they'll get a "trophy," be it one they put on a shelf or one they deposit in a bank account. I hear lots of discussion about deserved/undeserved trophies and accolades. What about teaching our kids to value different types of awards? As they get older, these are those harder-to-describe feelings of accomplishment when progress is made or of making someone's life better through help/assistance, not physical things to show off to friends and neighbors. Awards for things like participation are meant to help kids internalize some of these feelings, but they have, perhaps, gotten out of hand. I remember getting a few awards for participation as a child, but they weren't given simply because I had been dropped off and picked up by my parents each session, but because I went consistently and gave it my all consistently. If you didn't work hard (i.e. PARTICIPATE) you didn't get a trophy even if you had 100% attendance.


You shouldn't praise a child only when they achieve results, you need to praise their effort. Even when they do succeed, you need to praise the fact that they put in effort, not that they succeeded. You can never give a child enough confidence. Letting a child grow up with self-doubt? I do agree with you that it sounds horrible, because it does. If a child has self-doubt and its because of you, you are a bad parent.


Also, you think children should know their weaknesses? Trust me, they already know. It is NOT your job as a parent to remind them. They already probably get criticism from their peers, older siblings or cousins, and many others in their life, and it is YOUR job to let them know their strengths. Not to mention their weaknesses can become strengths if they work on them. If you point out their weaknesses it is incredibly demotivating.


Without an incentive to do better, we will not strive to become better. The everybody wins idea is wrong. It is false in everyway. Just as the positive reward system does work. We should be rewarded for our victories. I have 5 children and my oldest son has many trophies. Everyone one of his trophies were for winning. Now my children receive a trophy just for participating. I think it will breed a generation of kids that are just mediocre. Not my kids - I have taught them to strive for excellence in all that they do. So far I have one son who was excellent in every sport. A daughter who is a spectacular artist. She received the Presidential Ambassador's Award for college and is getting her college for free. My middle daughter was a gymnast and now cheerleader. She has hundreds of medals for first place including a 9.9 for floor exercise at level 5 competition. My 8 year old just received the Good Citizens Award at school. My 5 year old's story has just begun. These are nothing compared to the great call of God on all of their lives for "My descendants shall be mighty upon the earth" Psalm 112:2. I have God's promise.

Risa Jackson

Thank you! Recently my daughter's elementary school held their end of the year awards day. They used to only give awards for perfect attendance, honor roll, and specific achievements like top reader, UIL academic team work, etc. Now every single kid gets a "participation" award even if they didn't achieve any of the other mentioned awards because parents have complained over the years of their children being left out. This was also the case when she played little league. They got trophies for being the bottom team. While I agree we should praise a child's efforts, they don't need a participation award or trophy for everything they do. Of course as a parent we should praise their efforts, but it is equally important to correct them when they don't give it their all. My daughter is confident in her strengths, she is proud of herself when she works hard for something, and she knows when she should put forth more effort. If parents don't start being more realistic with their kids the world is going to eat them alive!

Dorie W.

Thank you for this interesting article. Children need reinforcement and positive words of encouragement, but they also need to know when they are not working up to their full potential. I work hard to praise and encourage my children when they do something well, and we work on self affirmations with them all the time.

I also let them know when they need to pick it up, be assertive, or put on their game face to get the job done.

My perspective is a little bit different because I have a son with Autism. He has been doing intensive behavioral therapy at over 30 hours per week for more than a year now, and he is 4 years old. He works hard, is developing an awesome work ethic, and praising his successes works great for him. However, when he doesn't perform or work as well as he can, we let him know he needs to do it better.

Check out my blog at www.zuluf.com/blog. Thanks for the great article!

Stella Karavas

New Scientist - a UK science publication had a very good article called "The Curse of Generation Me." I have included the link below as I am a subscriber but not sure it will allow others to view. It is a great article from a scientific perspective addressing precisely this issue.


I myself was raised on the premise that hard work is rewarded and it was the only path to achieve success or at least a life of integrity. The only trophy I got was for second place in the State of Massachusetts Gymnastics State Championships. Yet I need a barrel to carry my kids trophies from the second floor to the first at only age 12. Neither extreme is good. Yet either extreme can create monsters......children who by the time they are teenagers are unrecognizable with distorted expectations and over-the-top feelings of entitlement. Trust me, I have two of them. And although, they were not raised in my home with this philosophy, society, schools and their environment made sure they got a good handle on these traits. All I can say is it will take a lot of damage control to undo what we and society have done in over-inflating egos, expectations and feelings of entitlement. And our children will need to learn some very hard lessons along the way in realizing the difference between "reality" and "fantasy." I am in complete disagreement with the notion that you "can never give a child enough confidence." Folks with this ideology either have very young children or do not have children or have never been an employer.


Wow!!! I am impressed that somebody finally said it out loud. I and originally from Russia and we had actually an opposite way. I was never good enough. I was told by teachers, parents that I could have done better. I was an honor student in school and college, I got my MBA and MPA by age of 25 (we graduate earlier from school than Americans). So when I immigrated here I was shocked by mothers who complemented their children for NO reason. "Good job!" even if is was not actually good at all. I thought that it would be fantastic if we could actually combine Russian way and American and get a "golden middle". It was disgusting to see mothers with babies saying "ah oh he just pooped. Good boy!". Later on I saw medals for losing a game, prizes for 4th, 5th...places... Give me a break I thought... My child was pointing out saying look his mothers ALWAYS says her child does a good job... It was killing me. My husband and I reward our child when he really achieves something, we cheer him up if we see he tries hard but fails, but always tells him the truth if he is not doing a good job! Thank you for your excellent article! I cannot agree more! Someone who says that children know their weaknesses... Hahaha really? Show me at least one who admits. I work with adults and some of them are a bunch of buffoons thinking they are misters/misses perfect... They were raised by someone like you probably.... Too bad...


Just wanted to add another data point from the corporate world. I lead a team that includes a lot of recent college grads. Many of them are self-motivated, but others have demonstrated a sense of entitlement that I can only imagine stems from years of being praised for participation. There have been a few instances where team members have given feedback to managers saying that they would like to be thanked on a regular basis, even daily, for the work they are doing. My initial reaction was, "Your thank you is a paycheck!" While I believe in recognizing efforts that go above and beyond the normal job requirements and showing appreciation for hard work, I don't understand the need for constant praise just for doing your job.

Back to parenting, I'm a fan of praising my two year old for effort and not just results to encourage him to work hard.


This is the second article I read on this topic today. I've pondered and read about this issue for over two decades. Although there is truth to what you are saying, you will always find disagreements with many psychologists and many educators with their truth about empowerment and self-esteem. That's because both you and the group of psychologists/educators are right. This is what is wrong...The first group of parents are raising people pleasers (those who go through great lengths to be loved/accepted and then don't feel like they deserve it). The second group of parents are raising people who are are hardly ever pleased with anything (who can't seem to see beyond their own wants and needs). We are neglecting a huge population around the world who do not believe raising either of these types of people...those who know and study the bible well.


Team trophies can hardly be blamed for the woes of an
an entire generation of kids. I have become a little
bored by this geriatric notion that everything was better
before. People were far less sensitive generations past, let their
kids sit in front of the tube for hours andacceptably beat their children.
Let's accept times have changed and move on. The BOTTOM LINE in some parents have difficulty being good parents. They haven't figured out how to set boundaries, but be loving and set realistic expectations. Furthermore, they often don't scold their children when they've acted poorly. Some parents overpraise their kids, but I would venture that praise isn't the problem. It's parents who haven't figured out when praise is appropriate. The competitive reality is a material fact. Nothing is wrong with fostering a team spirit and pride in participation at ANY age. The point is don't tell your kid they are great when they are acting like a spoiled brat or are truly undeserving of praise. That is truly a parents job and not the fault of team sports, teachers or SOCIETY.


I agree with both sides of this. There should be less praise for simply showing up. But there should definitely be acknowledgment for effort - I liked the example another post gave of the child with CP being cheered on by his coach and teammates. No, he didn't win the race, but he gave 110%. I think there is a differentiation there between giving out praise just for the sake of it, and giving it to your child who busted his butt and maybe came in last anyway. Telling your child that they did a great job when you know they could have tried harder, or when you know they didn't even try at all... well, what exact lesson are you teaching them?


Although the study cited earlier showed improved performance with praise-for-effort vrs praise-for-success, it was only a short term study. What is the long term effect of this? How do you know the kids effort (despite failure) was actually worth praise? Repeatedly being told you did a great job trying when you know in your head that you really didn't try that hard, will eventually convince you that you ARE working hard enough and additional effort or proven success is unnecessary. I completely agree with Sheila on her point. I remember getting my first trophy in 4th grade for basketball. Everyone on the team got one at the end of the season where we'd won and lost about 50% of our games. I distinctly remember being handed the trophy and seeing the sticker on the bottom for the local trophy shop. I realized that anyone could just order a trophy and that this was essentially meaningless. The trophy meant nothing to me and I didn't keep it. I believe this is partly why teachers are becoming more helpless in class too - no parent wants to hear their kid isn't cutting it and insists on this persistent "A for effort" mentality. As our culture has moved toward this attitude, it's easy to see that we're actually doing worse. In California, 78% of students failed national standardized science tests. With a monumental school budget, this cannot be blamed on schools, but rather students, parents, and teachers who are not pushing kids anymore.


Note the survey that came out last year of American kids. They ranked 37th in the world for school performance in math, but when asked how good they thought they were, they answered #1. Lack of praise is clearly not the problem.


You know what ??? I was given the right to do good I had no choice. My dad was a person who could not get over himself I was told daily your stupid fat, dumb or ugly.
They were divorced and I lived with my mom most of my growing years, until I turned 13 I moved in with him there was never a kind word of encouragement from him only expected to do a good job if I didn't there was hell to pay for doing wrong, Today there are no encouraging words or trophies in real life if no one pats you on the back saying "good Job" you are so smart or some thing encouraging made me feel good. Today are we really saying that we don't want our kids to be failures or just in a rut? Kids today think that there is "entitlement" And so do most people.Im sick of telling kids that its OK when its not. Just saying there is such a need in this country for survival skills lets start at the beginning of life.. its not all honky Dorey there is always room for improvement showing up is half the battle that should not be rewarded doing it right is what counts...or half way attempt.

Ya today I'm confident.. self assured ..beautiful and still love with all my heart still ... big boned tho lol but I love ME! Yes I pat my self on the back I don't get trophies I don't look for any one to tell me I did a good job or a pat on the back it only leads to disappointments ... you know if you did a good job so there you have it. And no I don't listen to what my dad says today, but my mom yes and aunt as well always waiting for encouraging word because its real.

As it comes to art work well that all in the Eye of the beholder, I did not place first or second or third....or even a honorable mention in a art piece this wknd and it did not place at all its the fact that it was my first time to have the nerve to do it and I paid donation to it lol.* because I did do it only half way right.
I was looking for the trophy a placement even but it didn't happen but I knew I can try better next time.
In all this saying stop looking for entitlements trophies just enjoy the moment for what you accomplished raising your child in this crazy time of life.. It is too short!


Spot on! I just read where young people today are the most likely to lose their jobs due to feeling so entitled. Teaching kids that life is always good is wrong. A lot of our young adults have not learned the hard knocks of life make you work harder, feel better about your true accomplishments, or appreciate what we do have.

Joe G.

This is a good article. We agreed to always be honest with our children, and so far it has worked out well for them. Our thinking was that when they get older they will feel confident to come to us for advice, and if they don't come to us, they will handle situations better. Although our children did not like the honesty at times, they have become honest children, and we believe that this foundation will help them for the rest of their lives. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE!


If achievements and incentives for losing are false praise for a young mind they mean the top of the world.The toughness that you address comes with age.You will mentally destroy a child telling him/her she will never get a medal and her efforts will be in vane and only 0.01% of all can be a winner that's actually their chance to win.

The old methods of teaching give you less results,less champions and truly emotionally destroyed depressed individuals.

I'm a swimming coach believe me I practice child psychology daily with my swimmers.Winners are not only winners but they can be losers too in a long run.

That you won a gold medal in the Olympics of 76 sacrificing common life with sport can be a debacle in life and the consequences of missed opportunities enormous.Where half a second a huge difference gold and 20th place are a breath away.

One bad day or thought can turn you from the best to the last and is it justly to say because you have no medal that you are worse than the others?

That's why we motivate the children to give their best and that's what is important in life.You might not be the president of USA but you might be the best designer in DC if you just give your best you are a winner.

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