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When You Hand Kids a Trophy for Just Showing Up, What Does It Teach Them?

We are raising a generation to be selfish, lazy, and narcissistic with an attitude of entitlement.

My daughter came home crying that day. I asked her what was wrong and at first she didn’t want to tell me. So I asked her a few more times.

And on the millionth time of me asking “Are you sure nothing is wrong?” the dam broke and out poured incoherent tales of elementary school woes. 

Nothing serious mind you, but to a little girl who just happens to be drama queen, everything is a big deal. She explained that her teacher had called her out in front of the class for a wrong answer on an assignment and then went over how to correctly do that problem with the entire class. And our daughter wasn’t the only one that got called on that day. Several students were called out on incorrect answers and the class was given a lesson on why that problem was incorrect and how to correctly solve that problem.

I was so furious that my daughter had been singled out that I marched right back up to the school and had a conversation with the principal demanding that my daughter be apologized to and that this would never happen to another child again!  

How dare they hold my daughter accountable for her mistakes! 

Who do they think they are?

Can you feel the sarcasm?

Of course I didn’t do that. I sat down with her and explained why the teacher did that. I let her know that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and that it’ll happen again. Instead of trying to change what the teacher does we focused on my daughter’s reaction to being called out. We talked about it may be uncomfortable but next time she’ll nail that problem and won’t get called out on it again. We talked about how to handle teachers and others that teach or lead in a way that makes us uncomfortable and how to work with in it and succeed.

But unfortunately we don’t see an awful lot of this today. I’m not talking about teachers or the school system but the circumstance—personal responsibility.

We are raising a generation to be selfish, lazy, and narcissistic with an attitude of entitlement. They have a false sense of self and accomplishment and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Even the oldest of this generation hitting the job markets over the last several years have struggled because we handed them trophies for just showing up. We told them that they were special and could do anything but never pushed them to try. And we wonder why kids struggle today.

Last week we looked at how on screen violence and gore does affect the growing mind. We saw how virtually every study ever done supports that fact and yet I still received emails talking about censorship and how we can’t censor this or that or blah blah blah. At no point in time did we talk about censorship, instead we talked about common sense. We talked about a real discussion on gun control can’t be had without an honest look at the steady diet of violence we give our kids from day one. But the emails still came and they missed the point entirely.

I’m not for censorship but I am for personal responsibility. 

We have come to a point in our culture that our own individual happiness is of the utmost importance, even to the sacrificing of our own families. All too often I have heard the phrase “I/You/We deserve to be happy” and more times than not they are talking about marital issues. And it’s being used as a justification of leaving instead of staying and fighting for the marriage. There are times and real reasons to divorce but the idea that you can just wake up one day, fall out of love and run off to find happiness somewhere else is asinine to me.

Does what we think we want or deserve come at the expense of our own personal responsibility? Today I believe it does. And our children are paying for it.

When I grew up I played a lot of sports but mainly baseball. We would play in scrimmages, regular games and tournaments. And in those baseball leagues and tournaments you know who got the trophies at the end? The winners.  That’s who. You know why they got the trophy and the rest didn’t?

Because they won. 

They were either just better or out worked all the other teams and because of that they won. The rest of us lost.

Did it hurt to lose? Duh! Of course it did.

Did it make me want to work harder in the off season? Of course it did. 

Did it teach me how to be a good loser and in turn a good winner?  Of course it did. 

I lost games in T-ball (which my daughter never did because no one kept score) and learned how to lose at an early age. I understood that there are hard lessons to be learned in giving everything you have and still coming up short.  But today? We wouldn’t dare giving out trophies to just the winners—we might hurt the other kids' feelings.

How did we arrive here? I mean, life isn’t like that. 

If your boss hurts your feelings do you sit and cry in your office? Do you throw a tantrum until you get your way? Absolutely not! Not unless you want to get fired. Are you able to miss deadlines but be excused because failing might hurt your fragile self-esteem? Nope. Miss those deadlines and you’ll find yourself sitting at home wishing you hadn’t.

Life is not that way. Our lives are not that way. We are held responsible for our wins and our losses and so should our children. When they misbehave they should be disciplined. When they fail a test they should fail. When they miss a practice they should have to run extra to make up for that. When they skip work they should be fired. How else will they learn what real life is like?

But all too often we, the parents, decide that we have to rescue little Johnny or Mary so they don’t have “their wittle feewings hurt”. But all we’re doing is crippling them. We are sending them off into a world that doesn’t care and will cast them aside without a second glance thinking that everything is going to be handed to them.

Not my children.

When they do wrong they will be disciplined.
When they backtalk they will be grounded.
When they fail a test or an assignment they will receive an F.
When they lose they will lose and understand that it’s part of life.
When they win they will have won because they have worked for it and win graciously because they know how it feels to lose.

I refuse to allow this culture of “whatever makes you happy” to mold my children into its own image of broken homes, failed dreams and dashed hopes.

Not.
My.
Children.

Oh and my daughter’s teacher that really pushed her? My daughter did amazingly well that year. She made the honor roll for the first time (and several since) and began to see how good it feels to work for something and then achieve that thing. She blossomed under a teacher that at first made her uncomfortable with her accountability style and really took off for the first time. 

She was challenged because someone cared about her enough to not just hand it to her. She worked for and earned her spot on that honor roll.

That’s called personal responsibility.

 

 

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