Monday, November 15, 2010

Everyone Is NOT A Winner

I don't know if this is necessarily a new thing, but I do know that for some reason, I've become acutely aware of it.

"It" being the "everyone is a winner" phenomenon. What is that?

On occassion, I have attended games, recitals and school events of my nephews and my friend's children. I'm tired of hearing "Everyone did a great job!" and "You're all winners!". No, you didn't and no, you're not. There are winners and there are losers. If you didn't do a good job, you shouldn't be told you're doing a good job. Even if you're seven.

I don't have kids so of course I'll probably get hammered by even bringing up this subject, but I don't need to have kids to know what's right. I was also once a kid. And I didn't get praised for shit I didn't do. I'm not saying I was belittled or criticized, but I certainly wasn't lied to.

And that's what you're doing when you tell your kid they did a good job when they did not. You're LYING to them. Boldy. Competitions, sports, elections, races; they all have winners and losers. Why would you teach your child differently? What you need to teach them is that sometimes they will lose, and when they do, the appropriate thing to do is act graciously toward the winner and then learn what they need to in order to do better next time. Children (and people in general, really) should be rewarded for being outstanding, not mediocre.

Rewarding mediocrity doesn't prepare them for the real world (although the way things are in the world today, I might be wrong about that). It gives them a false sense of self. They think they're good at something when in actuality, they're not. No matter how hard you try, you don't always get what you want. You might not get into the college you applied to, you may not snag the job you desire, you might not catch the eye of the mate you want, and maybe you won't even complete the goals you have set for yourself. That doesn't mean you're a failure, and it doesn't mean you won't be a success. It's not negative thinking. It's just a fact.

If "everyone is a winner", what incentive does your child have to do better? It's sort of like when I worked at a restaurant which pooled tips. It was unfair. Why would a crappy waitress improve if she were getting the same cut of the pot as everyone else? That's right, she wouldn't. If your child thinks they're a winner without really exhibiting the characteristics of a winner, what motivation do they have to do better and achieve more? When someone is rewarded for not even achieving the bare minimum, what does that tell them?

It tells them they can do the bare minimum and get by, because nothing more is expected of them. They'll get the award or the trophy or the praise because they always have. Even when they didn't deserve it. Why is everyone so afraid of the truth? Are parents concerned that their children will crumble if told they aren't doing well? Maybe so. But who's at fault for that? Who made them think their shit doesn't stink? Likely, those parents did.

If your child is good at something, by all means encourage them, support them, and praise them. Let them pursue what makes them happy. Don't push them into sports or music or arts or whatever it is you think they should be doing. And don't jump on the "everyone is a winner" bandwagon. Have the courage to stand up to your peers by letting them know that you will not participate in a lie. All children, even if they're not yours, deserve that.

It's likely your child does have a special talent, something they'll excel at if they know they will be honestly praised and rewarded for it; because even kids know when they're not deserving of a trophy or an award or praise.

And you're doing them a great disservice by encouraging them to accept it.

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Anonymous said...

Bravo! I can't think of a thing more to add. So bravo sums it up. Well said!


Heather said...

Amen sista! I couldn't believe my ears the first time I heard this at one of my nephew's soccer games. I got there late. "Who's winning" I ask? "We don't keep score" says my brother. I literally do a double take. I ask him what he means by not keeping score. He explains that this way there's no losers yadda yadda. After the game I ask my nephew who won. He says to me, "Well, we don't really keep score but if we were, our team won 3-1" I look at my brother and tell him to tell those idiot coaches and whomever else thought up this asinine idea that they might not keep score, but the kids sure as hell do! How will these kids learn anything these days about trying harder and gracious losing? Crazy!