Question from the Parenting Trenches: “Do I Celebrate Everything?”

Soccer World Cup

At our recent Marriage & Parent Summit a great question emerged from a parent in the trenches:

“I want to encourage my children, but don’t believe everyone gets a trophy. 

What do I do?”

I believe this question hits on a topic many parents wrestle through. How do I build my child’s self-esteem without going overboard? I asked my friend, Rob Cummings, his thoughts based upon his experience as a dad, coach, and school administrator.  Here is what he had to share…

Being a coach, a teacher, and a father this is a question that I have wrestled with for many years.  Not only for my own children but also for children that I have been blessed to work with. It goes without saying that every parent wants success for their child.  Every parent wants their child to be recognized in front of others but should everyone get a trophy?  For me the answer has become quite simple but for others the answer may be quite complex.  God created us with unique talents and abilities.  We were created in His image as individuals who have unique skill sets that allow us to experience the world around us in different ways. 

I have been blessed with three very different girls.  Savanna is a senior in high school who is incredibly competitive. She has been recruited by several colleges to play basketball next year.  Emma is in 8th grade at my school. She is a multi-sport athlete who enjoys competing but is more content to play for the joy of sport. Bel, who is adopted from Haiti, doesn’t understand competition because competition is not inherent in her culture.  Each would give you a different answer to the question whether or not a trophy is important but there is one common theme they would all share.

Do your best in everything you do and get satisfaction in knowing that you have done your best. 

As Paul stated in Colossians 3:22 (NIV), “…obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for The Lord.”

Encourage your children to participate and do their best regardless of whether or not they get a trophy.  Ultimately all your children want is to hear is mom or dad saying, “I love to watch you……”

I stand in agreement with Rob. Our kids are wired in dramatically different ways yet there is a consistent theme among all of them… they need our affirmation.

We can make the mistake of believing that we build their self-image by never letting them lose. However it can set them up for failure in the future. Our kids need to learn the reality of life. People come in first, second, third, etc. Robbing them of the opportunity to wrestle with competition as a child (when the stakes are low) means they have to wrestle with it as an adult (when the stakes are higher).

We can set our kids up for success by helping them learn how to walk out the realities of competition.

We can set our kids up for success by being present in the aftermath and being the voice they need to hear reminding them that they are not defined by the score board.  They are defined by their Savior.