'Participation Trophies' Don't Send Kids a Winning Message

Pittsburgh Steelers player James Harrison has no issue letting the world know how he feels about awards you don't earn. The linebacker recently made the decision to strip his kids of participation trophies as he believes they send the wrong message.


Well, James, you might have a point here.

Taking to Instagram, the two-time Super Bowl champ clarified his controversial decision.

I'm sorry, I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.

Actually stripping your child of an award you disagree with is a bit extreme (at least to me), but I personally don't see anything wrong with his sentiments. In fact, I think it's time we take a hard look at participation trophies and really think about the message we want to send to our children.

I'm all for celebrating kids as they are the most precious things in life a parent will ever have (a spouse too ... on occasions. Kidding). There's certainly nothing wrong with commemorating a season of sports, or some activity, with a tasty dinner, family outing, or team-related special event. However, if we're talking about the true nature of a competitive sport, the concept that everyone gets a trophy so there won't be any losers isn't really what competitive sports are about.

More from The Stir: Kids & Competition: Should We Always Let Them Win?

But it's just a trophy, you might say, and while technically you're right, there's also a misguided message of receiving a reward every time you try something. This helps establish an unrealistic expectation that the things you do will always receive high praise -- or at the very least, a pity gift to make you feel good about yourself.

Can you imagine us as adults looking for participation trophies on the job? If you get passed over for a promotion, you don't get a gold star for being one of the final three candidates.

Sometimes there's victory in losing as it makes you take a look at what you considered your best and how you can sharpen your skills. Has anyone else struggled with obtaining something they really wanted that didn't come easy? There's a good chance it probably took a little extra elbow grease to see into fruition, but just think about how you felt when you achieved it. Now imagine if you constantly received an award just for trying. Do you think it would push you to be all you can be, or simply do what's expected because you know you'll take something home?

While it's OK to want to shield children from certain realities of life, it's just as important to set them up for success. You won't always win at everything you set out to do the first time -- and you won't always get recognition for simply showing up.


Image via © Grady Reese/Corbis

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