It’s not uncommon for kids to come home with trophies or medals these days says Alex Gierbolini. While many parents encourage these achievements, the reality is that more time spent practicing over and over again to achieve a goal can put a strain on children.
With this in mind, here are 8 tips for dealing with participation trophies so your child learns how to be persistent while developing an appreciation for hard work and natural ability.
1) Don’t Reward Failure
The whole point of sports is trying your best. If you get second place in a race, match, match or contest it means you didn’t do your best. Whether one held back during the event or just simply lost, taking home a participation trophy doesn’t do much to teach children that they should try their best.
2) Avoid Comparisons
While it may be tempting to compare your child’s efforts with those of other kids, you don’t want to put them down for not having the same skills as someone else says Alex Gierbolini. Not only is it unfair, but this can leave lasting emotional scars on developing kids. If your child gets a trophy after a race and compares himself with another runner who got a better medal, he might feel discouraged and less likely to succeed in future events.
3) Focus on Winning vs losing
If you make a big deal about winning or losing at an event or contest, children will learn that what matters most is getting the prize. Instead of focusing on the idea that everyone can win, kids will start to think they are special if they win.
4) Avoid Unrealistic Expectations
Doing your personal best is one thing, but parents shouldn’t expect children to be perfect all the time. If you focus too much on wins rather than just learning how to do something new or developing a love for sports or other activities, it’s likely your child will get frustrated and stop trying after a while explains Alex Gierbolini.
5) Take Advantage of the Opportunity
Parents shouldn’t worry about their kids getting trophies. If they do, it’s an opportunity to talk to them about what makes a win in life vs when they don’t “win” at something. While you might feel frustrated or discouraged, make sure your child knows you are there for support but that there are many other ways to learn and grow in the world.
6) Remind them that everyone is Unique
Reinforce efforts, but also tell children that participating in sports or activities helps they develop skills that cannot be measured by scores alone. Rather than focusing on winning or losing, focus on positive reinforcement and telling kids how being persistent will help them achieve goals.
7) Talk about Winning & Losing
If you want kids to understand that sometimes they will win and other times lose, make sure they learn the difference between both says Alex Gierbolini. Losing is part of life and has its benefits, but if no one ever wins, everyone starts to feel discouraged and like there’s no point in participating at all.
8) Reward Them with Memories
A trophy or medal is great for celebrating a huge achievement, but parents shouldn’t use it as a reward because kids can start thinking that winning is more important than just having fun doing something new. If your child got first place in a race instead of a trophy, take her out for ice cream afterward as a special treat without the fanfare. In this way, she learns not to focus on materialistic things, but instead on the joy of participating in a new activity.
While kids with a trophy in their hands might look happy in the moment, lasting happiness comes from hard work and persistence says Alex Gierbolini. When parents use trophies or medals as a reward for participating, children will learn that being special is more important than just doing an activity they love. Talk to your child about how unique everyone is and focus on rewards that teach them not to give up after one try. In this way, they’ll have many memories of their childhood rather than just a few moments when they got a trophy.
If you want your children to grow up to be happy adults, the best thing you can do is avoid focusing on trophies. If they win, great. And if they lose, make sure they know it’s not the end of the world and that there are many other things they can still accomplish in life.