There was a time when losing became motivation for winning. Losing a team sport makes the team practice harder.
Losing made each individual want to be better than their last effort. Losing made the coaches want to devise new strategies to implement. And although it was not a guarantee for success, it made you feel better the next time out when you won the game. A comeback victory makes everyone involved feel good. Even the parents, fans and supporters of the team felt proud because they'd become emotionally vested in the team.
The same things can be said about awards day at the end of the school year.
The students would gather in the auditorium and those students who had done what they were supposed to do all year where honored with certificates and awards. There was an award for "High Honors", "Honors", "Perfect Attendance", "Dean's List" and "Principal's Award" and depending on the level of the school there may have been a few other acknowledgements. BUT, if you left that auditorium with nothing, there a chance you were not surprised because bad grades and performance does not sneak up on you. You knew going into the ceremony how your grades were. In fact, you knew all year that this day was coming and had ample time to plan for it and get your grades on the right track, but for whatever reason you chose not to.
For some students walking out empty handed was a wake-up call. The next school year you studied a little harder, you asked for additional assistance, you asked those friends who earned award the year prior for a little help and you made things happen. The next award ceremony rolls around and maybe you don’t get "high honors" but you are able to make "honors", or maybe you came extreme close to honors and got dean's list recognition for most improved performance. Nevertheless, you leave that year with your head held high because you knew you put in the work and got the recognition you deserved.
Somehow, some way, things took a wrong turn. I don't know this to be true, but it would seem that a group of parents, whom maybe, didn't know how to handle their child being hurt or sad complained, and said everyone should get a trophy. And behold, events started giving out participation trophies. Every child that played in the game walks away with a trophy for simply trying. The same concept spilled into the school systems and there were awards and certificates given to cover just about every aspect of things to insure every child got something on awards day. I know of a school that give a "Good Student" award to children who show up to class and turn in their homework. This may seem like a great thing for the moment, but I don't think people considered the long term affects this could have on a person still developing social skills. Awarding students and players for doing what they are expected to do does not prepare them to become more or extraordinary. Instead we stunt their development by confusing them into thinking they ae doing just as great as the person who work, studied or played harder, so they start to feel entitled. What it also fails to explain is how come the opportunities offered in the end to those other students are not the same.
Learning these simple lessons in failure, loss or rejection are important for the development of a child or teen. It helps them to learn and understand a valuable lesson. That not everyone wins every time and you can't get what you want every time. According to F. Diane Barth of Psychology Today, we are programmed to be entitled at an early stage of life, but we are also programmed to gradually develop the capacity to recognize that other people have needs. This growth cannot be forced before a child has the internal ability to understand; but we can all gradually learn, through experiences with our parents and other people who love and care about us, to manage our needs to be special. The definition of entitlement is: the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). A sense of entitlement complex is linked with narcissism and borderline personality disorder.
The people who didn't learn those simple lessons as a child often develop a sense of entitlement. They may find it hard to develop meaningful relationship and friendships because they can’t deal with rejection of any kind. They can become very controlling because they are accustomed to things happening a certain way and they are not willing to bend. These same people may throw tantrums or even worse cause others harm when they are embarrassed publicly simply because they never learned how to process those emotions as a child. We have parents, teacher, coaches and loved ones that help to guide us through those emotions at a young age. Maybe participation trophies are hurting more than helping.
Feel free to email me your thoughts or leave them in the comments section, and as always...