I never thought I would write something complimentary about members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the day has come. Of course, my kudos are for their parenting, not their exploits on the gridiron.
Two members of the Steelers, James Harrison and DeAngelo Williams, have taken a stand against the “participation” awards that are now given to kids for pretty much everything they do. Last year, Harrison made his sons give back participation trophies and wrote:
“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.”
This year, Williams made his daughter return a participation ribbon she received at a school track event, and reported that she went out the next day and won first place.
I think the notion of “participation” awards are one of the worst brainstorms ever devised by the fevered imaginings of school counselors and helicopter parents — and I say this not just because the participation awards the boys received cluttered our basement for years. Whether it’s sports, or chess, or science fairs, the ribbons and trophies should go to those who compete and win, not just those who show up. Kids know the difference between phony trophies and recognitions for true achievement; they discount and quickly forget the former and actually value the latter.
I’m with the two Steelers on this one. Forget the stupid participation trophies, and don’t try to make kids think that the world won’t draw distinctions between performance when adulthood arrives. Participation trophies teach kids exactly the wrong life lesson.