It is the age old question: Do participation ribbons create lazy children?
I am a firm believer in healthy competition. Competition helps mold young children and teaches them the value of how to be a humble winner and a gracious loser. I, myself, am quite competitive and I do not like to lose — but who does?
When I was a kid, we had playdates with the neighbor’s children, participated in youth league sports, played family games, etc. Except when I was a child, there were rarely participation ribbons given in those instances. If I was playing basketball, softball, soccer or even a simple board game with my sisters, there would be a winner and a loser. Sometimes, unfortunately, that loser was me. Did it sting? Yes. Did it hurt my feelings? Yes. But losing taught me much more than how to strategize to win the game next time. Losing taught me vital social skills on how to congratulate my opponent even if I was angry about losing. It taught me how to get back up after being knocked down again and again, to hopefully one day see myself on the other side as the winner. It taught me how to humbly accept success without rubbing it in someone else’s face. It taught me, on a small scale, simple life lessons that would benefit me in the future.
In today’s culture, society is breeding kids to think that everyone’s a winner. To an extent, that is true. Being on a team and learning a new skill or sport does make you a winner, but children these days are not learning the value of humility with winning, nor are they learning how to be gracious with loss. Kids are becoming lazy due to this “everybody wins” attitude. Participation should not be used as a Band-Aid to cover up the hurt of losing. Losing is not wrong, but not letting kids get “hurt” by their losses when they’re young is. It only sets them up for failure as an adult. It conditions them to think that they can put in the lowest level of effort and still get by in life. They aren’t being taught to apply themselves or how to get up when they have fallen, and this is an issue.
This idea of “participation is enough” is not only seen in kids’ games and sports, but it is now seen even in the classroom. When I was in elementary school, we had programs put in place that made sure children stayed caught up if they fell behind, while also teaching them discipline. And, we also were given zeros when we did not do our work. Programs like these show children that if you just apply yourself and put in a little bit of effort, you can stay caught up and, in a sense, win.
Did you know that in many states, teachers are not even allowed to fail students anymore? They are told to simply pass them on whether they have done any work or not. What good does that do for the next generations? They are growing up without learning basic skills of time management and responsibility, then they are being pushed on to be someone else’s problem the next year. This is not OK. These kids are entering college and the workforce without having been challenged at all.
Policies and guidelines like these have been put in place to help children, but I am here to argue that it is actually hurting them in the long run. Kids should be taught to shoot for the stars, not aim for low-level mediocrity. Challenges and hurdles are no longer seen as stepping stones to the top, but rather a place to get stuck until somebody comes along and holds their hand as they go around them. I hope that if the teachers and coaches aren’t permitted to show these kids how to grow from loss and failure, maybe there is hope that parents can instill some valuable knowledge about the art of competition.