In every society and every culture there are things that are done with good intentions, that have negative outcomes. The concept of everybody gets a trophy is one of them. We think that in doing things like not keeping score in sports and giving everybody a trophy, we are helping our children’s self-esteem, we are not. First, even if the adults don’t keep score the children are. I was attending a 6 and 7-year-old baseball game where they didn’t keep score. I asked the kids how things were going and one of the boys .” I asked him how he knew that when they didn’t keep score. He said the grown-up doesn’t keep score, but we do, and right now they have 7 and we have 4. Second when we give everybody the trophy, or we don’t keep score, we are reinforcing the idea that everybody in the same. There are never any winners, and nobody ever loses. We are not helping children to understand the difficult reality that even though you do your best sometimes you fail. When everybody gets the trophy, we are not giving our children a realistic look at the world. Life can be difficult. We don’t always get the trophy. We don’t always win. These are hard lessons to learn, but it is better that our children learn them early so that they do not grow up emotionally immature and ill-prepared to face the realities of life.
Another positive to not always getting the trophy is motivation. Not getting the trophy can motivate our children to work harder and not give up when things get hard. It can teach them about the importance of persevering through difficulty. No parent wants to see their child upset, but as painful as it is to watch our child fail to get the trophy. It will be even more painful to watch them be unable to cope with the difficulties of life. It will be a great pleasure to see them overcome difficulties and grab that trophy that they have truly earned. So let’s stop pretending that everyone gets a trophy because in reality, they don’t. Let remember the great feeling of fulfillment that one gets when they know that they have earned the trophy.