“Congratulations! You didn’t win, but you (hopefully) tried hard, so here’s an award to make you feel better.”
This is essentially the purpose behind giving children participation awards. Not to congratulate them for accomplishing some great task, or winning a competition, but for merely being present.
Many parents present the argument that these trophies will motivate their children further and make them feel good about themselves, but in reality, these trophies have many undesirable and seemingly unpredictable effects.
Participation trophies and awards have become a distinct part of our social norm. When a child participates in a team sport or a dance recital, it is expected that the same child will come home with either a participation trophy or a certificate.
The frequent distribution of these awards has caused many children, through mere participation, to become accustomed to the feelings of greatness and superiority that come with victory. This causes many to develop a narcissistic attitude in life that can later cause difficulty when they are faced with the reality that they aren’t the best.
These awards can also be seen as a way of devaluing the actual activity itself. The event or activity the person is participating in should be intrinsically rewarding and should not require a trophy or certificate to solidify that emotion.
Participation awards are given to children regardless of the effort put into and the outcome of the task at hand. These awards can cause many detrimental effects on the attitude and development of the child.
Overall, the negative effects from the encouragement and frequent distribution of participation awards should be halted. The only way to accomplish this is to lessen the grasp that participation awards has on our view on success.