Participation Trophies: Should Kids Be Rewarded Just For Showing Up?

Participation trophies were the topic of discussion in a recent article on NPR. Site contributor Cory Turner set out to see if giving kids rewards just for showing up was a good thing or bad thing.

Turner spoke to psychologists and child behavior experts on both sides of the fence and found that the prevailing school of thought leaned towards No.

From the report:

“‘No,’ says Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck. Kids should not be given trophies simply for participating, she says. Dweck explains her answer with an anecdote from a mother she’d recently spoken to.

“‘Her daughter rarely showed up for her soccer team. She had a terrible attitude,’ Dweck says. In spite of that, ‘at the end she got a giant trophy and would have been devastated had she not.’

“Dweck concedes a child shouldn’t have to be the best player on the field to get a trophy, but it should reward something, like improvement or team spirit.”

Susan Harter, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Denver, agreed with Dweck’s take, stating that she thought it was “a little bit excessive.”

She added, “At what time of [a child’s] life do we want to bring home the cruel reality that somebody’s better than somebody else?”

Turner spoke to others, who professed the same anti-participation trophies sentiment, but there were others who passionately argued to the contrary.

More from the report:

“Kenneth Barish, a clinical associate professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College, isn’t afraid to say it: He thinks kids should get trophies for participation. “This is a minority view now,” he says with a laugh, admitting that he’s had to defend the idea even within his own family.

“Barish says he sees no harm in adults encouraging participation with a trophy and that he’s found no evidence the practice leads to entitlement among kids.

“‘It may be all they get,’ says Jorge Perez, vice president of youth development and social responsibility for the YMCA, another Yes vote. The Y has made a habit of giving participation trophies, he explains, ‘because we want to anchor the experience.’

“A few years back, Perez says, several young men visited him with YMCA baseball trophies they’d received as kids. And these weren’t fancy, first place trophies. They were ‘tiny,’ given simply for participating. But the men had kept them and clearly valued them. Perez argues these trophies act as an important marker, to say ‘I did this, I finished this.'”

“‘That’s why those kids hold onto those trophies,’ Perez says. ‘That’s why Mom doesn’t throw them away.'”

What do you think, readers? Are participation trophies a good idea or do they too heavily foster a world of entitlement and lead to spoiling kids? Sound off in our comments section!

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