The Trophy Culture

Slice Of Life

The end of this school year has me scratching my head. If you read my column weekly, you know that I do not think everyone should get a trophy and that we need to be a bit tougher on our children. As a high school educator, I believe the quality many kids are missing today is grit. Many kids today cannot overcome obstacles as we have leveled all of the obstacles for them.

One reason I believe we are inflating the self-worth of our children is the constant praising of our children. When I say this I do not mean, “Good job Joe. Keep up the good work.” I mean the excessive amount of pride we are taking in our children for doing a good job at what they should be doing. The definition of pride is a “high or inordinate (excessive) opinion of oneself.” Did you know that in the Bible, pride is one of the seven deadly sins and said to be the worst sin of all. In one of my favorite works of literature, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, it is the protagonist’s tragic flaw. But in the last few weeks, I have had to read how proud people are of their three-, four-, and five-year-olds for “stepping up” from nursery to pre-k or kindergarten. Let’s be honest, 99% of the children I know are stepping up from nursery to pre-K and even eighth grade to high school. The days of keeping children back a year is a very small percentage.

My one friend said as we were discussing all of this pride on social media, “Let’s be honest, none of these kids have cured cancer. Maybe someday they will, but not yet.”

Chris Rock, the comedian has a bit about people bragging that they take care of their kids. He responds by saying, “That’s what you’re supposed to do.” So we should not be overly happy our kids are doing well in school and/or sports. “That’s what they’re supposed to do.”

When I was a young child, my mother told me I had one job and that job was to do well in school. So when I slacked off and did not do what I was supposed to do, I would be in trouble. Some years after my mother passed away, a woman told me how proud my mom would be of me for helping my dad with my brother and sister. I was in my twenties and happy to hear that compliment because it was not thrown around a lot in the 1980s.

So let’s get back to realizing that doing well in school and playing ten games in a weekend is not really something to be proud of. Again you can say, “Good job Mary.”  Not let your heart be filled with pride because they have succeeded in something expected.

*Footnote: I understand some children may have a disability and them stepping up may be a huge deal to you because of that said disability and they worked harder than the average student. This column is not for you.

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