Pittsburgh Steelers player James Harrison is under fire after stripping his sons — an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old — of participation trophies they were awarded for well…just participating in the game.
The linebacker took to Instagram to explain his rationale, saying he didn’t want his boys to feel “entitled” to rewards “just because they tried their best.”
The issue of rewarding students and children athletes for simply participating has been a hot button in parenting blogs across the internet in recent years. While many parents believe in making each child feel special, psychology experts have been outspoken about the negative effects of rewarding children for not much at all, pointing out the lackadaisical attitudes that may accompany constant praise.
Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck offered her thoughts about this issue in the New York Times piece, “Too Much Praise is No Good for Toddlers.” After studying children’s coping and resilience mechanisms for over 40 years, she says too much praise may lead to less resilient children. Acknowledging children’s every day achievements, she says, will likely have negative repercussions on their motivation to work toward them. “Parents should take away the fact that they are not giving their children a gift when they tell them how brilliant and talented they are.” Dweck doesn’t discourage praising kids altogether, but suggests focusing it more on their approach to difficult tasks, their ability to strategize and concentrate—the kinds of skills Belafonte wished he had emphasized while raising his own children.
These psychologists and Harrison aren’t alone — according to a 2014 Reason-Rupe poll, 57 percent of Americans thought that trophies should only be given to winners.
But that poll doesn’t seem to reflect the backlash Harrison is receiving from many on the internet, who view his decision as a form of public humiliation for his children.
Are participation trophies and awards harmful to a child? Or do they encourage great work ethic and ambition? Let us know what you think in the comments below…