Participation Trophies According to Kids, Tweens, and Parents
Senior Vice President, C+R Alum
This year, we at YouthBeat have been talking about a new kind of parenting style we call “Om” Parenting. The “Om” is a guttural exhale, a release of stress and negative energy. As a parenting style, it’s characterized by common sense, reality checks, and raising children with healthy senses of responsibility and dignity. Some of the ways “Om” parents encourage independence and resilience are through letting their children fail and solve their own problems, and through letting their children go without luxuries or extras in order to appreciate what they do have.
An “Om” parent might act similarly to James Harrison from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who this summer famously declined sports participation trophies for his sons. His gesture encouraged his children to work hard to earn an emblem of success, rather than receive a shiny object merely for showing up to a game.
But how do youth feel about their participation trophies? This was one of the questions our friends at Highlights explored in their 2015 State of the Kid research report. In the spirit of full disclosure, C+R conducted the fieldwork for the research this year and in 2014. Though the majority of 6-8 year-olds and 9-10 year-olds say they want the trophy just for playing, some of them acknowledge that when a statue is a sure thing, everyone might not bring their A game. The bulk of oldest kids 11-12 prefer to only receive a trophy when winning, as a more meaningful token of success.
All told, participation trophies are probably here to stay in the near term, at least for younger athletes. Proponents say they foster a love of the game and a healthy sense of “doing one’s best,” rather than a thirst to outdo others. Each family must decide for themselves what works best.
This year’s State of the Kid Report also explores youth attitudes around parental discipline and indulgence. Highlights’ 2015 report is available for download, along with prior editions of the report.