Stop With Meaningless Participation Awards…Seriously

By: D, A, Slinkard
When I was a kid if you were a loser you knew it. If it was sports and the other team won, you watched in agony as the team received their trophy for being the best of the best! You were envious with the hardware they would be taking home as you left empty-handed. In school when it came to the art contests, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that I had no ribbon indicating a first, second or third place. In fact, my artwork was not deemed worthy of any kind of ribbon. Yet, we live in a society today that is quick to hand out participation awards.

That’s right; we have taught our kids today that just showing up and not being the best is worthy enough to receive a piece of paper telling how great you were because you participated. I cannot help but chuckle when I think about the future generations of weak sissies we are raising up. Recently my girls were in a birdhouse making contest, and keep in mind they are ten and twelve years old. Now their birdhouses looked like they were made by a ten-year-old and a twelve-year-old, and they did not place in the contest. What excites me though is how disturbed they were when they each received a participation award for entering the contest.

It gets me excited because if more adults thought the same way my two children do, then we might be able to raise up a society of do-it-yourselfers instead of raising up a generation of people who feel entitled to everything in life. To reach success in life, every child on the face of the planet needs to be taught that they will need to work hard for the success they want. No one is going to just give them their dream home, their dream car, etc.; yet, too many parents are teaching their kids not to worry about the messes they (the kids) make because their parents will clean it up for them.

What are we teaching our children? We are teaching them that no matter the outcome, they are winners in life, when in reality they are far from winning at times. I am all about positive thinking, but we have many people who are beyond positive, and they have become delusional by making everyone feel more like winners and less like losers. These children who go about life thinking they are winners, are faced with the harsh reality that they need to produce more effort if they are going to achieve success.

Instead of increasing their actions, they buckle because they do not know how to handle the pressures of life. Their entire life they have been lied to because people told them they were winners when in fact they were losers. How do we overcome this? We must first start being honest with ourselves and our children. We can no longer lie to our loved ones and pretend they are doing a good job when in actuality they are not measuring up. We are too worried about hurting their feelings, when all we are doing is prolonging the hurt until they are older and life smacks them right in the face.

What is the world going to be like in the next fifteen to twenty years when these participation award recipients find out that life does not give out imaginary awards for lackluster results? We have to instill a competitiveness in our children, our grandchildren, now. We cannot wait. They need to be taught to be self-motivating, goal-oriented individuals who are able to self-sustain for their own good. Parents, please allow your children to learn from youthful mistakes; you do not always have to swoop in to save the day for them. Believe me, if you keep doing it, then your children are going to continue to rely on you well past the age you intended.

I write this article because we need to work on the mindset of tomorrow’s leaders. A failure to do so not only hinders ourselves but more importantly limits the ability of our children to become great leaders. People complain about the direction we are headed, but who is to blame? We enable this destructive behavior when we should be teaching our youth that participating does not make you worthy of a trophy, no matter how special you think you should feel.
By: D. A. Slinkard
D.A. Slinkard is the manager of the Athens Staples store