You’ve likely heard of this concept. Schools and sports teams use this coaching tool as a way to make sure every child feels special.
The intentions here are good. We don’t want to discourage our kids from activities that may not come easy to them. Using a reward system is a classic method in psychology for reinforcing good behavior.
Of course the problem comes up when a kid receives a 10th place trophy and actually feels worse.
We then try to get rid of trophies altogether by declaring “no winners.” This works well in some activities where having fun is the goal, not recognition.
At the end of the day, however, we’re not giving our kids enough credit. They can tell when we’re patronizing them. They already know who won and who lost. Instead of giving them arbitrary rewards in an attempt to make them feel better, we can instead be honest with them about where they stand with a certain skill.
Is trophy entitlement the most important issue our kids face? Not really. In most cases, handing every kid a trophy is more of a missed opportunity than a detriment to the psychology of our children. We miss an opportunity to celebrate the achievement of an individual or group because we don’t want to leave someone out.
That’s why I encourage you to focus less on making sure a child feels great about something they’re not good at and instead encourage them to try again. Remind them that there are plenty of other activities and skills that they will be great at.