plastic praise

When my older children were in grade school, they each participated in recreational sports.  These were the type of teams that were not always competitive, but had mom’s who bought granola bars and juice boxes for after the game, orange slices for half time, and trophies at the end of each season.

I was a supreme annoyance to these well-intentioned parents.  I was the mom who questioned why we stressed ourselves out to supply all these extra treats.  I frequently announced that my children were quite capable of going ninety minutes without food, and at the end of the season, I was the mom who refused to spend $6.95 for a plastic trophy made in China.

I am not a fan of the everyone’s-a-winner mentality.  It’s not that I don’t believe everyone has talent and that we should all be free to pursue our own genius, it is just that I don’t believe a bobble-head baseball trophy given to a seven-year-old is going to fundamentally change her self-esteem.  It is consumption for the sake of consumption; it is one more meaningless thing to clutter your home and clog up your life.  The mere suggestion that a second grader needs a trophy to help build her self-esteem is offensive and insulting.

I always warned my kids that the trophies were coming.  I reminded them that they wouldn’t be getting one, explained why, and then we practiced complimenting the other kids on the trophies they would receive, “Wow, that is a really nice looking trophy.  Good job!”  Neither of my kids ever once complained about this.  Neither ever cried over the decision, and they never begged to have a trophy of their own.  The other parents thought I was heartless, but my own children never cared about their lack of a trophy shelf.  If a parent questioned me I would say, “We are holding out until they actually earn one.”

I recently read an article about self esteem.  The article discusses our addiction to compliments and outlines how we place a premium on self worth. Brad Bushman, Ph.D., a communications professor at Ohio State University, researched our need for constant affirmation and declared, “ All that time spent thinking about yourself not only contributes to depression, but it makes society a less kind and gentle place,”

I feel vindicated.  Maybe my no-trophy rule helped my kids step outside of themselves for one minute.  Maybe it taught them that win or lose, playing the game is the reward, not the end-of-the-season party or the fake, plastic praise.

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7 thoughts on “plastic praise

  1. Yay, someone who sees things the way we do! With my kids getting old enough to do sports, we really get annoyed with the everyone’s a winner no one ever loses philosophy. No plastic trophies have appeared, at least not yet. And don’t get me started on the freaking snacks! Most practices take place right around suppertime anyway-I figure if my kids can’t last all the way home to eat supper that there is something wrong. We don’t let them have the snack, at least until after supper. 😉

  2. Interesting comment about holding off on bringing home a trophy until they earn one.

    We talk about that quite a bit as managers at work. Some younger employees are focused on titles, “perks” and offices, but they don’t realize they are junior level employees. There is a lot of discussion about how these plastic trophies are leading an expectation of earning something for doing little more than showing up.

  3. Caryn says:

    I am not sure they can survive without a snack….after all, this is the “helmet generation” we are talking about here. 😉

  4. Lisa Abraham says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the trophies. My son recieved many, many of those annoying things and he has only kept 2 – a Tae Kwon Do fighting championship trophy and a football trophy. Both of those he earned!

  5. Remember T-ball?!?! I thought snack was so silly! Water yes, cupcakes, no! I admired your ability to stand up to the pressure of everyone about trophies. I heard the snarky comments mostly because the other parents were uncomfortable. Of course, I pitched in for the trophy because based on my kids T-ball performance, I was pretty sure this was the only trophy they would ever have (true still 11 years later!)

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