Motivating Kids in a World Where “Everyone Gets a Trophy”

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What is to be gained from awarding participation trophies? Children get the message that they don’t need to excel, they just need to show up.

Many parents believe that participation awards build confidence, but in reality, the opposite is true. Chris Hudson, founder of Understanding Teenagers says, “Ironically, participation medals don’t build confidence but they DO create entitlement. Confidence and resilience don’t come from false praise or rewarding normal behavior”.

Unfortunately, these children grow up to be the entitled employees of tomorrow. It’s taken awhile for companies to reach these conclusions as well, but it looks like that tide is turning. Corporations are shifting their recognition strategies to base their awards on performance rather than longevity such as attendance or years of service awards.

Children gain confidence and learn self-reliance when they set and achieve goals. Helping our children to set SMART goals, determine the steps necessary to reach them and then rewarding them for that achievement will give our kids the tools to manage their own future. Whether they set goals around completing homework, improving grades, completing chores around the house or even healthier lifestyle habits, they’ll be able to achieve them; for now, with our supervision but later, on their own.

As parents, can we really sit back and watch our children make their own mistakes? Erik Fisher, author of The Art of Empowered Parenting says we have to. “Failure offers us moments to grow, to learn and to evolve. When we keep our kids from failing, we rob them of that opportunity”. We can give our kids guidance regarding study habits and practice for sporting, music or other activities, but ultimately, they need to make the decisions and then live with the consequences of being unprepared.

When we set realistic goals with our kids, track the progress and reward achievement, we’re setting them on the path to a self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-confident future.

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