Should My Kid Get a Trophy?

I started wrestling when I was 10 years old. I didn’t realize it then, but it would teach me a lot about life. One thing about wrestling is they make sure you are just about naked when you step out on the mat in front of what you believe to be the entire world. There is no facemask to hide behind, no hat to wear low on your forehead to hide your emotions, and no one else to lean on when you’re struggling. It’s just you vs someone who wants nothing more but to smash you into the ground.

I am not here to toot my own horn, but over the years I ended up getting pretty good at it. In fact, my senior year of high school I entered the state tournament undefeated. I was your typical 17 year-old-kid: I was cocky. I knew I was that good and when you add consistent winning into the mixture, you start to believe you are untouchable. Then, you are in the state finals wrestling to be named the best wrestler in the state of Arizona. Your friends and family are watching, the girls are watching, the college scouts are watching, and……you lose in double overtime 2 – 1. Double freakin’ overtime. Yeah, that actually happened.

I remember after the match sitting there in tears and and completely devestated when my coach said,

“Chris, believe it or not this may be one of the best things that will ever happen to you.”

Looking back, he was exactly right. Losing in double freakin’ overtime in front of the world that Feburary afternoon prepared me for this thing I would soon enter called LIFE. I learned in my late teens that life is going to hurt. Life is going to literally punch you in the gut so hard that you can’t breathe. No matter how hard you work for something, there isn’t a guarantee that it will work out. You’re not going to always get the job, you may be passed up for that promotion, and you’re not always going to get the trophy in life. Wait, did I just say you’re not always going to get a trophy? You bet I did.

My Kid Is Not the Best at…..

Times have changed since I was a kid. I remember watching from the sidelines of my football games because I wasn’t talented enough in football to actually play in the games. I was a “practice player”. There wasn’t a mandatory amount of time I was required to play – it was whoever was the best player saw the field. Today, we try so hard to make sure everyone feels that trying your best and being the best are the same. Believe it or not, they are not the same at all – not even close.

We can admit it, we are afraid to tell our kids that they aren’t the best at something. We feel guilty if our child sees someone else getting more attention than they are. We have this feeling that we must protect our kids from every avenue of possible failure. Why didn’t our parents feel this way? Apparently they must not have loved us that much 🙁 Actually, I think it’s just the opposite: they loved us so dang much they were willing to let us fail so we would be ready to enter the real world…….and win.

Now that I am a Dad, I know this to be true. It’s tough to watch or even help our kids fail (a little) to teach them life’s lessons. However, would you rather they learn from you so you can prepare them, or would your rather they get laid off from work during budget cuts and cope with it by throwing their computer across the room and then setting the building on fire? Have you watched the news recently? That’s really not as crazy as it sounds.

Should My Kid Get a Trophy?

I have a 5-year-old and he loves sports. I also have a 5-year-old who is showing obvious signs of being a “future practice player”. Can you believe I just said that? How dare I think my kid is anything but the best, right? The truth is, he tries so hard to be the best, but he simply isn’t even close. The great part about being a 5 year-old is he doesn’t care….it’s the parents that do. We care because we love our kids and want what we believe is the best for them. However, if my child is simply not the best, should he still get the same trophy as the best kid on the team?

Absolutely not. I am sure someone is cursing me right now, but follow me for a second. I am okay with my son getting some sort of recognition for playing the sport and finishing the season, but it’s also okay to recognize the best player on the team even if my kid isn’t the best. Why do I feel this way? Because I know the real world is closer than I even realize for him. I would rather him feel a little bit of the gut punch of life while he still has me to lean on because someday he may lose in double overtime. The girl of his dreams may dump him. He may get laid off from work or be passed up for that promotion. Life is going to happen to him and he needs to know how to navigate through it when life does. If he spends his entire life getting the trophy for showing up and breathing air, then I am doing a poor job preparing him for when life is…..well, life.

“I Made my Bed, Where’s My Trophy?”

I am afraid for the next generation of “Everyone gets a trophy.” We are teaching kids that you should be rewarded for everything that you do. Kids today believe if they show up and do their best, they will get rewarded. Do you always get rewarded when you try really hard. No, of course not. My wife works her butt off and was passed up twice for a promotion at work. I woke up at 4:00am for 6 months straight to study for Fire Captain’s testing process and came out as close to dead last as you can get. A couple we know spent thousands of their hard earned dollars for in-vitro and still didn’t get pregnant. A friend of ours who is the defintion of health and fitness just underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. We all show up and try our best and we often don’t get that trophy. Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t make this up – Life did.

What is going to happen when someone who has been told they are nothing but awesome gets a reality check from life? I’ll tell you what will happen – they will quit. They will completely fall apart and won’t be able to pick up the pieces because they have never felt failure before. Here is a quote you won’t see everyday:

Failure IS an Option, However Quitting is Not - Chris PeachClick To Tweet

I lost in double overtime and none of the scouts offered me a scholarship. My mom and dad must have done a great job teaching me life’s tough lessons, because I failed but I didn’t quit. Instead of hanging up the wrestling shoes because I wasn’t offered a wrestling scholarship, I walked into the Arizona State Wrestling Room in the Fall as that “loser” from state. I took that pain and turned it into a driving force to be better. I knew there was a high possibility of being cut from the team, but I still went after it. I was competing against kids who already had scholarships and were “big time”. These guys were better than me. That didn’t change the fact that I wasn’t going to give up.  At the end of tryouts, I made the team. I never quit. I also got my butt kicked and only won 4 matches – and learned humilty 🙂

What About You?

Are you like me and believe that by giving everyone a trophy we are supporting the “wuss-ification” of America? Or do you believe that I am a jerk-face for even suggesting not all kids should get a trophy? I will tell you that I am not perfect and in fact have a lot to learn and I am open to hearing other ideas on just about….everything. Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think. In the mean time I am going to teach my kids that work = money, giving is good, it’s okay to not be the best, and Dad is here when life throws you a gut punch.

Be good to yourself, your friends, your love, and BE GOOD TO YOUR MONEY!

Signature

Related Posts

30 replies
  1. Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz
    Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz says:

    Great perspective, Chris. I agree 100%.

    Love the “failure is an option” quote. We have stigmatized failure as something to be avoided at all costs. And to “avoid” it we give tokens that symbolize “success”. The reality is failure is going to happen at some point and it can be used in a productive way.

    When my child is old enough to play, say, baseball and if he’s not very good…I want him to know he’s not very good. Not by me (or anyone) telling him but by him looking around and being socially aware enough to realize it. And be okay with it (while not quitting) because he realizes for every 1 thing he’s not good at there’s 10 things he is (or could be) good at.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Luke, failure is not a bad thing. I have a friend who works for a large real estate firm and they say: “Fail More Often to Grow”.
      Thanks for the comment Luke 🙂

      Reply
  2. Brittany
    Brittany says:

    I completely agree with you. This goes for everything, not just sports. Our local library had a party to celebrate the end of the summer reading program and gave the kids raffle tickets based on the hours of reading (read more, get more chances to win). My 5yo son was so excited about one of the gifts (a dvd) that he put all of his tickets in that cup. He watched the cup like a hawk to see how many other people added to it. I asked him a few times if he was happy with his strategy and he was. Unfortunately, at the end of the party, he did not get his prize and he was very upset.

    We sat to the side and discussed how you don’t always win. He got it, although he was still very sad. I think he was more sad over having not won anything than having lost that particular gift, so we also discussed “going all in” on something.

    There is a happier ending, though. He just his bday party over the weekend and he got the blu-ray copy of the movie for his bday (I had already bought it before the summer reading party). So he learned that there’s always another chance.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Hi Brittany! This is a great story with the DVD. Winning, losing, & failing will happen everywhere in our lives – not just in sports. If you would have gave him the DVD that same day at the library, he would have been thought “you must always win, right?”. Great comment and thank you! 🙂

      Reply
      • Brittany
        Brittany says:

        Exactly! I admit that I briefly considered giving it to him earlier than the party (though not the same day). Knowing that he wanted it so badly made it so much sweeter as a gift when he finally got it.

        Reply
  3. Lexie
    Lexie says:

    Absolutely agree 100%!!! We have a hard time with my daughter teaching her that losing is ok and part of life cause she wants to WIN every time no matter what it is. And I know she has to learn that’s life. But man her attitude and the way she reacts, I don’t know what to do to make it better. I’m a little worried when she starts sports and isn’t the best! Teaching sportsmanship is hard with a stubborn 4 yr old. Must be the Grimmett in her haha.
    I definitely agree with your parenting in this blog and what we should be teaching our children. Love reading your blogs!

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Thanks Lexie for reading! Teaching your kids sportsmanship is tough, but I heard a really interesting fact this afternoon: they did a survey and asked kids what their favorite part abut playing sports was for them. You want to know whe winning ended up on that list per the kids? #48 out of 50. Kids just want to have fun, and parents sometimes get in the way. My kid is probably a practice player – it stings a little for me as a parent, but he is still smiling away 🙂 Kids are just kids until we get involved. Thanks Lexie!

      Reply
  4. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    I agree with this 100%. Kids are so entitled these days, and this “get a trophy for breathing” mentality is really feeding that entitlement. We can’t all be good at everything, so by failing we learn what we are not good and it guides our life in the direction of the things we are good at (and hopefully like doing as well).

    Reply
  5. Lizz Garcia
    Lizz Garcia says:

    Esteban and I were just talking about this topic. We completely agree that giving kids trophies for showing up is instilling a false sense of confidence and an entitled attitude of which the real world has no use for and will chew them up and spit them out. If your kid is terrible at something you need to encourage them to complete the task (which in and of itself could be rewarded with say a movie or something from the parent not institution, as a learning tool) and move onto something else. Just like you were saying you can suck but you can’t give up. It also encourages a young one to seek out what they ARE good at and to pursue that instead of giving them a false sense of confidence and ego in something they aren’t suited for.
    Much agreed señor Peach.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Thanks Lizz! I agree with you that we don’t need to reward everyone the same way to avoid hurting feelings. Part of playing sports is the feeling you get when you win, AND learning to cope with the losses. If there are always winners, society is going to kick your butt when you hit the real world and become a tax payer. However, if my kid sucks at Soccer and he wants to keep playing it because he LOVES the game, then I’m okay with him playing something that he’s in love with, regardless if he’s good or not. Sports are supposed to be fun. I think I remember that ?

      Reply
  6. Robyn
    Robyn says:

    LOVE THIS! I have been an elementary school teacher for 15 years (the little people – first graders) and am now the Mama of an almost five year old little boy. In the past 15 years I have seen things swing drastically to the “do it all for them, reward them for everything” philosophy and it has made my job MUCH harder. And (dare I say it) my interactions with some parents much more difficult. Kiddos should be taught to work hard, do their best and be proud of their accomplishments EVEN IF THEY AREN’T THE BEST. That is what we are trying to teach our little one as well. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have said, “I’m sorry it didn’t work the way you wanted. Don’t give up! Try again.” Thank you for your post!

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Hi Robyn!

      I am so glad that you commented here because you are literally in the trenches on this exact topic. As a teacher, how do you handle the new philosophy of making everyone equal and the reward always the same? When is it going to be mandatory that every kid get the same grade? What’s the next step for everything needs to be fair? What do you think Robyn?

      Reply
      • Robyn
        Robyn says:

        Everyone is not equal in the sense that people learn differently, background experiences influence and shape people, and everyone has the choice to stay static or move forward. Can every individual work to improve? Absolutely! I went to a training today on mindset and the brain. Very interesting topic and completely related to your post. The brain is a muscle, it can grow, change, and be retrained. New brain research has shown that IQ is not static and can grow. EVERYONE can learn new skills when they persevere through difficult tasks or situations. Does this mean everyone will be the best at everything and learn at the same rate? No, but when a person (of any age) chooses to persevere and try GREAT things happen.

        I don’t buy the “everyone is the same and the reward is always the same” philosophy. It is a shame those making laws in education don’t have the requirement of having an education background or at least having to teach for a day. Education (like most things) swings on a pendulum and while accountability is important the way it is being implemented is crazy. The focus is on product instead of process . . . the best thinking is being ignored.

        Oh, I could go on and on . . . .

        Reply
        • Peach
          Peach says:

          Robyn,

          “The focus is on product instead of process”

          I think you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for sharing and thanks for what you do as a teacher. We need more Robyns out there 🙂

          Reply
  7. Heather
    Heather says:

    I agree with your perspective 100%. I love my kids and would have no problem talking about them, or showing pictures, or talking about them AND showing pictures of them, all day long. I find myself feeling, and possibly even acting, like the first parent to ever have their child say or do something amazing–even if it is the zillionth time it has actually happened. That being said, I feel giving kids trophies or medals for everything is doing them a huge disservice.

    Back in the 1600 or 1700s, there was a period of called the Age of Enlightenment. Today, I feel like were are in the midst of the Age of Entitlement. The increased sense of entitlement coupled with a decreased level of work ethic and integrity is NOT a good combination, and that is not the school of thought I want to even remotely instill in my children.

    Special recognition, such as a trophy, in my mind warrants special effort or achievement. Showing up in and of itself is not good enough. I feel that providing a trophy just for participating might encourage the later mindset of thinking that just showing up for work earns the paycheck.

    Disappointment and failure are unfortunately a reality. And while I don’t think we need to serve that up in supersize portions, I also don’t think I should pretend that it isn’t the truth. Recognizing effort and good attitude doesn’t have to come in the form of a tangible solid trophy. In my eyes, the trophy can be my unconditional love and the huge amount of pride fostered with our youth learning the love of a sport, the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, and the virtues of responsibility, courage, and perseverance. These “prizes” will continue to pay out throughout the course of their lives.

    I remember, and value, going for an ice cream cone or my parents making me a special dinner after events far more than I value any trophy or medal sitting in a box somewhere, and that includes the trophies and medals that were earned for excelling.

    I believe in encouraging and supporting our youth, my own children and all others included, to the nth degree. I just personally feel that there are better and more meaningful ways of doing it than handing out trophies at every opportunity available.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Heather,
      Thanks for the insight and you make some excellent points. I don’t think anyone wants their child to grow up w/ the mindset that if you just show up, you’re going to be paid/rewarded the same as the guy who shows up and works. The “Real World” has a pretty unforgiving way of humbling (or humiliating) the people who simply show up to fill space and breathe air. Thanks again for the comment and you probably need to start a blog – great points!?

      Reply
  8. Trace
    Trace says:

    Hey bud, I agree with you and have said that for all the years my kids have been playing sports. When my son played flag football, I told the coach’s wife not to order him one, for the exact same reasons in your article. I have always thought it was ok for a ribbon or some small token for participating, but not a trophy. At the end of the season…she ordered him one anyway! I was ticked, then she had the nerve to tell me that it was because by the time I told her, she had already ordered it and didn’t want him to feel left out. I was livid…and you know how well I filter stuff. Needless to say, he never played on that team again. Failure as a kid does prepare you for real life…It also makes the successes that much sweeter.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Trace, thanks for sharing buddy. Personally knowing you, I completely understand what you mean when you say you were “filtered” – that is impressive to say the least :). I don’t think either parent in your situation was a jerk or trying to do the wrong thing – I think it is simply a new belief system society has unknowingly created. We try to protect our kids from getting hurt on their bikes to scraping their knees, but it’s transformed into “If my kid is hurt at all – we failed as parents”. I joke and often say – “are parents going to be allowed into their child’s job interviews when they’re older?” Wouldn’t that be interesting…..? Thanks for sharing and for those of you who don’t know Trace – thank-you for serving our county too! ?

      Reply
  9. Carol
    Carol says:

    Wow this is a tough one. Not all kids deserve a trophy, but all kids should know that everyone is a winner. My youngest son who is 22, was a special Olympic athlete and that is there motto. He has had his share of challenges with a lot of pain and he did not get a trophy for everything he has accomplished. But I will add this, he has graduated high school and now he holds a full time job working ten hour days at a automotive warehouse, and I make sure everyday he knows how proud I am of him for coming over so many challenges. I hope this makes sense. I have raised my two sons as a single parent for a long time, I don’t want a trophy, my trophy is my two young adult sons being productive in life and work hard and they will get rewards along the path.

    Reply
  10. Cori Herbert
    Cori Herbert says:

    Chris,
    Thanks for the great article. I totally agree with you. I have kids that are just entering adulthood and were some of those that were the first to have these participation trophies. I have 4 kids. One of them was THE kid that was one of the best but he didn’t start off that way. He worked his butt off to be that kid. This was also the kid that got cut from youth football at age 9 and I’m the kind of mom that drove him back to practice the next day and made HIM ask the coach why he’d got cut (coach’s response… “he wasn’t aggressive enough” and believe me that was not the case afain. The other 2 are good but better at 1 sport than the other. Then there is our daughter, the youngest, who is just definitely not… she is the practice player. My ex and I got so ticked about this every time we came across this. Luckily, it only happened a few times. We noticed its prominence in some sports more than others. For our town, it was soccer. Every time we had a kid that got a participation trophy, we were sure to explain to them that we didn’t agree with the choice that the team coaches/mom went with. We told them that life was not that way. Life will chew you up and spit you out 10 miles away. One other thing I noticed that has mostly gone by the wayside is the BEST _________ awards. When I was in high school, there was the Best Offensive Player, etc, awards. Those were great because they motivated players to push themselves harder. As parents, we hate to see our children hurt but there is a line protection and sheltered… Reality vs Fantasy. Recently, I have been challenged with this protection issue. My oldest and middle sons are at boot camp right now. I can do absolutely nothing to help them in any way other than to write them letters and pray that their drill instructors will do the job I’ve been doing for 21 years. One thing I do know is that I’ve had to have done something right. Being hard on them, pushing them, and cluing them into reality has put them both in leadership positions.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Hi Cori,

      Thank-you for sharing. You are one tough parent to drive your kid back to practice to ask why there were cut. I think that had to almost be more painful for you than your son. You must have been doing something right if all of your children turned out successful, with jobs/careers, and a path they can follow in life. Good for you for being a parent inside a world where it is a lot easier to be less of a parent and more of your child’s “buddy”.

      Reply
  11. Becks
    Becks says:

    I have been involved in Cub Scouts for the last 9 years. I see boys and parents that feel that it’s a given right to receive a “trophy” for everything they do. I’ve seen parents who will do the work for the scout so they do receive the awards, which is teaching our kids that it’s ok to lie or cheat to get the “trophy”. It also teaches them that there will be someone there to pick up their slack. The Pinewood Derby is a fine example of this thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I love scouts. Just not the dishonesty some parents and scouts display to receive the awards.
    I also work as a lunch lady. I see the “every kid gets a reward” attitude. I tried to incorporate a reward system for good lunch room behavior. The class which had the most days for good behavior received an ice cream party at the end of the semester. When I brought some cheap popscicles at the end of the first quarter as an incentive to give to the class in the lead, a bunch of kids complained to the principle, who came to the kitchen and said it wasn’t fair to the rest of the kids. So someone bought more to give to all the kids. At the end of the semester, once again it wasn’t fair that “all the kids didn’t get something for trying”. I think that this type of thinking is counter productive.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Mrs. Beck,

      Thank you for sharing this. When did we decide as a society to teach kids that fair and equal are the same thing? All we are doing is setting up the future generations for absolute failure and heartache. Fair and equal aren’t the same. If Billy works 40 hours a week and Todd works 20 hours a week at the exact same job, should the receive the same size paycheck? Your Principle is preparing the kids this is true metaphorically speaking. Wow – watch out world….watch out.

      Reply
  12. Becks
    Becks says:

    I have been involved in Cub Scouts for the last 9 years. I see boys and parents that feel that it’s a given right to receive a “trophy” for everything they do. I’ve seen parents who will do the work for the scout so they do receive the awards, which is teaching our kids that it’s ok to lie or cheat to get the “trophy”. It also teaches them that there will be someone there to pick up their slack. The Pinewood Derby is a fine example of this thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I love scouts. Just not the dishonesty some parents and scouts display to receive the awards.
    I also work as a lunch lady. I see the “every kid gets a reward” attitude. I tried to incorporate a reward system for good lunch room behavior. The class which had the most days for good behavior received an ice cream party at the end of the semester. When I brought some cheap popscicles at the end of the first quarter as an incentive to give to the class in the lead, a bunch of kids complained to the principle, who came to the kitchen and said it wasn’t fair to the rest of the kids. So someone bought more to give to all the kids. At the end of the semester, once again it wasn’t fair that “all the kids didn’t get something for trying”. I think that this type of thinking is counter productive.

    Reply
  13. Zach Potter
    Zach Potter says:

    I think that its funny that there are so many comments on this article! Its always fun to see what peoples opinions are and what they think! This seems to be a touchy subject on receiving trophies. As a parent I think that I would agree with a lot of what is said here. I like the last part of the “wussification” of America!

    Reply
  14. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    It’s funny because everyone talks about millennials as the “trophy” generation, but when I hear millennials talk about themselves they always refer to themselves as the exception. That said, there are SO many valuable takeaways from this piece, many of which I’ve personally experienced. In the context of high school, I was a rockstar, but how do you rise to the occasion when the world expands beyond those parameters. You have to understand how to respond to failure, and like you know, the sooner you learn how to do that constructively, the better.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Hi Stefanie! You’re exactly right! You have to fail if want to grow. The wins and trophies are fun, but the failures are where you learn the most. I’m sure people look at you and see you in Business Insider or on the TV screen and think – “look at her, she’s an overnight success!” They weren’t around for the “no’s” and disappointment that caused you to have success. Failure is an option. Quitting is not. 🙂

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *