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The Problem With Giving Your Kid “That” Award

February 12, 2019 No Comments

The Problem With Giving Your Kid “That” Award

February 12, 2019 No Comments
Holding Trophy

We create a problem when we give out rewards for “not good enough” efforts.

Jake Thompson

Imagine having the last month to prepare for a new client pitch. It’s a big one, and to be honest, you’re a little stressed. You study, review the presentation a few times, and then finally, it’s pitch day.

Your presentation isn’t smooth, you fumble over some words, and a couple of questions asked by the client were left unanswered.

Needless to say, you don’t land the new client. You finish fourth out of five companies pitching the new client.

But alas, there’s a bright spot! Your boss decides to reward you for your client presentation with a salary raise.

It’s not something you expected – heck, you didn’t land the client that you *thought* was essential to the company – but you won’t turn down a reward!

Six months later you have another client pitch. You’re not as stressed as last time – I mean, your job wasn’t dependent on it before, why should it be now? You prepare, about the same as before, and just like before, you don’t get the client.

You walk into your boss’ office, expecting to have a productive conversation and receive another raise.

Because that’s how reality works, right?

“That” award I’m referring to is the participation one your child received after her team finished fifth in their weekend tournament. It’s like the raise your fictional boss gave you in the example above.

We create problems of entitlement if we hand out trophies to everyone – because if everyone gets a trophy, what’s the point of even having them? You reward the person who gave the least effort or poorest results the same recognition and praise as the person who gave the best effort and performed flawlessly.

The trophies are handed out because the person in charge doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings – unfortunately in the real world, as with our careers, it doesn’t work that way. You aren’t promoted for doing a bad job. You don’t keep your job if you continually make mistakes.

The real world only rewards you for what you earn.

By taking away that trophy, you’re creating opportunities to teach your child three very important lessons about effort, work ethic, and resilience.

1. Not everyone can win every time.

It sucks – but we learn more during our time in the valley than we do standing on the mountaintop. I shared the biggest lessons we can teach from a loss in this post, but a loss can be a powerful motivator that fuels future victories. We learn where we fell short and what to improve on. And most importantly, we learn how to rebound from a setback – a crucial skill the successful in life have mastered.

2. A lot of people say they want to win – few are willing to put in the work.

By only giving out trophies to first place, we are showing everyone else what is required to reach that level. It’s the reminder that if you want to get to that level, you have to be willing to put in the work for it – both in sports and as an adult in your career.

3. Sometimes life isn’t fair – but your efforts and response are 100% up to you.

There will be times in your adult life that you will work your tail off and come up short. There will be times that you deserve to win, and for some reason don’t. Life isn’t fair. However, during those difficult times, it’s the gritty who continue to put in the work that eventually get to their goal. It’s through this process of continuing to compete every day after a loss that molds you into a more successful person in life.

Toss the Participation Trophy – Do This Instead.

After the game (and getting rid of that trophy), use the moment to remind your kid that:

  • You’re there to help them work hard on improving to win next time.
  • You can’t always control the scoreboard but you can always control your efforts, so give 100% every time – because that’s what you care most about.
  • Just because you lost today, doesn’t mean you won’t win next time.

And then take them out to pizza, because your time, relationship, and lessons shared with them far outweigh any Saturday afternoon scoreboard..


Compete Every Day’s Raising Competitors program is designed to equip parents with lessons & activities they can use to teach the 5 Pillars of a Competitor. To learn more about this program and when it debuts, click here to sign up for notification.

Jake Thompson

Jake Thompson is a professional speaker and coach who helps ambitious leaders win their work, workouts, and life. As founder of Compete Every Day, he has spent years studying great competitors, and with this research, has created a process that can help leaders harness a Competitor's mindset to make better choices and in turn, make bigger impacts in their careers and personal life.

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