Thu. November 29
Why My Toddler Doesn’t Need an Award from Her Gym Class
A few weeks ago, my sixteen-month-old daughter received a “super star award” upon completion of her Gymkhana toddler gym class. In addition to a pale-pink ribbon, she was awarded a certificate that lauds her “abundance of energy” and her “positive approach to loving and learning through sensory motor experiences.”
My daughter is terrific. She worked hard and I’m proud of her. But was she a super star? Compared to whom? Based on what criteria? Everyone got the same award, of course, but not every kid was a super star.
Giving a ribbon for participation—to a sixteen-month-old—rewards the idea that just showing up is good enough and that effort is the same thing as skill. That’s not the way the real world works, and it does a disservice to our kids to raise them in a feel-good bubble and then drop-kick them into adult life without the emotional skills to cope with the challenges they will inevitably face.
Yes, I’m getting my mom-jeans in a twist over a feel-good ribbon given as a kindness to a child too young to understand what any of this means. But as a professor and author, I spend my time trying to undo the damage to the “everybody gets a trophy” generation of young-adults currently in their twenties who feel unprepared to handle the mean trophy-less world. Let’s not do this to another generation of kids.
Feeling good about yourself because you are told you’re great (self-esteem) isn’t the same thing as feeling good about yourself because you’ve accomplished something of value (self-efficacy). I look forward to the awards ceremony when my daughter earns her high-school diploma, and all the subsequent celebrations as she distinguishes herself in a calling of her choosing.
And yet it feels like such a bad mommy thing to do to throw out the ribbon. Maybe I’ll just start a collection of these “awards” and keep them hidden away until she understands irony.