by Lizzy Bonica, Staff Writer

“If children always receive a trophy — regardless of effort or achievement — we’re teaching kids that losing is so terrible that we can never let it happen.”  – Ashley Merryman, co-author of “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children”


In today’s society, children are given too many trophies. It seems as though children are being awarded for the simple act of showing up or even participating in something at all. But why is this trend becoming more and more common? Many say that it is important to make every kid “feel like a winner” and that giving these awards will inspire motivation. But in fact, the trophy-crazy trend that has gained popularity in recent years is really having the opposite effect on America’s youth.


By giving kids a trophy for everything they do, we’re indirectly teaching them that losing and not getting a trophy is unacceptable and can’t happen. This is a horrible message to send to young, malleable minds of children. Kids will become their own worst critics if they are never taught that failure and learning from your mistakes is okay. A recent study found if parents thought failure was debilitating, their kids adopted that perspective. If parents believed overcoming failure and mistakes made you stronger, then their children believed it, too.


And by never exposing children to failure and mistakes, we are depriving them of important life lessons, and filing their heads with destructive mindsets. If a child is never taught that it is okay to lose and believe in overcoming failure and mistakes, that child will be harder on themselves in the future and will not know how to handle rejection and failure when it hits them in the real world.


Letting kids lose or not take home an award of any kind isn’t about trying to embarrass children, but rather to teach them that losing is ok, as well as teaching them that an award is something you earn through hard work and dedication. You may not be good at something right away and that’s ok, but with hard work and dedication you can get there. Those lessons will instill more motivation in any child than just mindlessly handing out participation awards ever will.


An abundance of trophies can not only send implant a dangerous and destructive message into the minds of young children, but it also has the power to take away the significance and pride that comes with receiving well-earned trophies.


Back in early May, cheer coaches at Hanover Park High School have decided to overrule tryouts and cuts, and instead mandates that everyone who wants to be in the cheer squad must be allowed to participate, despite the amount of prior experience they may or may not have.


“All my hard work has been thrown out the window,” seethed cheerleader Stephanie Krueger about the ruling during a Board of Education meeting last week in East Hanover. “I tried my hardest. Now everything is going away because of one child who did not make the team, and their parent complained.”


We need to stop coddling our children, giving them trophies and awards for everything. It deprives them of important life lessons about embracing our failures and learning from them. Furthermore, constantly giving out trophies and awards will take away the significance and their importance Finally, it undermines the hard work that so many other children do to be a part of those teams and organizations. We need to be teaching America’s children that they need to put in the work to earn the award. After all, you don’t give a fish a trophy just for swimming.