I don’t believe in catering to my kids’ tastes when it comes to dinner. I generally try to feed them food they like for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, but I also think it’s important that they are exposed to a variety of different foods and encouraged to try them. It’s important to me, really, that I get to eat what I want, too.
So does that mean that no other parents should ever go for mac and cheese over mussels arrabiata? Is it never okay to offer a peanut butter sandwich and apple slices when coconut curry chicken has been patently rejected? Should we force all our children’s friends and our nieces and nephews to choke back kale salads or bust? Maybe restaurants should stop serving kids’ meals altogether!
But of course they shouldn’t. Just because I feel strongly about
making dinner a constant struggle eating a good variety of food, doesn’t mean that also has to be everybody’s priority. To be honest, there are days when I can’t be bothered about it either.
Yet, when it comes to parenting, everyone thinks they know best. People like to insist that their own values and priorities should apply to everyone. Participation medals and trophies for kids are in the spotlight again after Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, James Harrison, posted a picture to Instagram of the trophies his sons received.
I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. 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…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues
This is all fine and good. Harrison is a professional athlete and teaching his children what it means to work for and earn an award is obviously important to him. But, holy cow, is this ever a popular opinion — and one I’ve seen echoed many times before. Kids these days are given everything for nothing, the thinking goes. They are entitled brats who will never learn how to work hard or cope with disappointment. We must not mollycoddle them!
Ah, whatever, I say. What. Ever.
Give the little kids their trophies for coming out. The more competitive leagues for families and kids who are serious about athletics could probably ditch the participation trophies (if only to spare me yet another hunk of plastic in the home), but house league programs that are about learning and having fun should reward the kids for showing up.
For lots of kids (and especially for younger children), going to practices, learning new skills, and playing as part of a team, actually is an accomplishment. Have you never had to drag a reluctant child out of bed for skating lessons? Or bribed your kids to please just get in the car and go to the game it’s for your own good dammit why does this have to be so hard?
Some kids love team sports and thrive at them and will go on to compete at higher and higher levels. Others are shy, insecure, or physically uncoordinated, and it’s a challenge just to get them to join in. But it’s still good for them! Physical exercise, discipline and team spirit benefits all the players, good and bad alike.
So, at the end of the season, we should absolutely take a moment to recognize every player who worked to make the year a success. We should hand out medals or even trophies to our youngest and weakest to shine a light on the entire season for them. It’s something they can hang up or put on a shelf and look at with pride. When they look back on last year’s season, then, maybe they won’t remember the fights and the tantrums; they’ll remember earning an award as part of a team.
But of course that trophy still says “participant”.
Anybody who thinks kids are fooled into believing they’re the winners just because they got a trophy is fooling themselves. As soon as children are old enough and emotionally mature enough to care about competing, they know who the champions really are. Try having a “just for fun” game of anything with some ten-years and tell them not to keep score. Impossible! They will always keep score.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what we do. Because participation trophies mean as much to competitive children as a big, solid gold, “thanks for coming out” trophy would have meant to Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers when they lost the Superbowl XLV to the Greenbay Packers. They mean nothing at all.