Orange slices and trophies

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So I guess the spoiled brat from New Jersey has withdrawn her lawsuit against her parents. Maybe because she had a revelation, maybe because she thought she might not win her case, maybe because she was becoming one of the least liked people in the country. She is just one of many today who have a sense of entitlement. They should get X, Y, and Z because of who they are, what their name is, who they know, how much money they have, blah, blah, blah.

Here’s the problem. We as a society are partly to blame. Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes (just sometimes?) children are selfish. I get it. And as a parent, it is up to me to teach my girls. But society has begun to teach children mediocrity is ok. All you have to do is participate and at a minimal level at that.  No one should be left out, everyone should feel good, and no one should leave crying. That might hurt their psyche. It might make them feel bad about themselves.

I once taught in a school where every member of my class was to get an award at the end of the year. All 33 students (yes, 33 in one class) were to receive a certificate of achievement in some area for the awards assembly. (I guarantee this happens everywhere.) All 33? A certificate of achievement? Some I literally had to make up. I had one that was given the “most creative” award. She was always making up illnesses that she had: some minor, some serious, none real. So, I figured “that’s creative.” She didn’t know why she received that award, and I didn’t elaborate.

Think of all the little league sports teams where everyone wins, at the end of the game everyone gets orange slices and at the end of the year everyone gets a trophy. No matter how hard you played or how much you goofed off. Personally, I think it minimizes hard work. I think it trivializes rewards.  And don’t even think about keeping score. That’s not what sports are about. It’s about having a good time. It’s not even about doing your best. Just go out for the team. Coach John Wooden said, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” Unfortunately, that’s what we are teaching thousands of kids.

I’m a music teacher. I taught for 15 years before staying home with my girls. One of my least favorite phrases to hear was, “Why do we have to do this? Music should be fun!” Says who? Music is hard work, or legitimate music is. Music is fun once you put in the hours of practice and hash out problem areas, once you perform a piece to the best of your ability and you walk off the stage with a sense of accomplishment. THAT’S fun. But it comes with a price.

What about academic areas, like science fairs, where there are no awards for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, but everyone gets a trophy just for participating? Really? Where’s the reward for hard work? Where’s the reward for those who went the extra mile? Children are taught they don’t have to do much and they’ll get a trophy, they’ll get recognition, a pat on the back. If you do work hard, your recognition is the same as the kid who put their project together 30 minutes before the fair. But honestly, in the real world, it doesn’t work that way.

See, I’m a bad parent. When we play games with our kids, like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders, we play for real. (Just wait until they are old enough to play Scrabble. Bwahahaha!) No changing the rules so our kids can win. (Unless, of course, the game is dragging on. Sometimes we have to help it along.) They need to learn to lose. They need to learn to lose with grace. They need to be good sports. See, that’s what is important. Character. Having the right attitude even when things aren’t going their way. They can not grow up thinking everyone is going to just hand them whatever they want. Not everyone can win all of the time. I don’t want to placate to my children. I want them to know that hard work will pay off, and that people appreciate being able to count on them.

Life is not a spectator sport. It’s not just about getting by, it’s about getting in and doing your best. Sometimes you get recognition, sometimes you don’t. Have character. Be a good sport. Stop handing out orange slices and trophies.

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