An illustration of good parenting

Steeler’s linebacker James Harrison is a star known for aggressive, clean hits. He earned the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award. As such, he knows full well the value of deserved awards.

Upon learning that his sons received participation trophies for simply showing up at a sports activity, he returned the trophies with a polite but pointed statement. His only apology was “I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best ... cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”

That is one of the most philosophically sound arguments I have seen about how the world works and how parents should prepare their children for reality. In other words, he is not sorry that he doesn’t believe the liberal social agenda where everyone must be the same (their definition of equal) and that no one should ever have their feelings hurt.

Good for him. He has supposedly received a lot of comments about his actions. Most are said to be positive, but, of course, there are those few who think he will ruin his sons. How is not clear. But there is no doubt he is now a target of the liberal left.

After all, we can’t have our children learn things like self-motivation, independent thought, or self-reliance being earned instead of awarded. That goes against the mentality of the collective. They might actually question the socialist utopia!

Participation trophies are a symptom of a greater problem. Sure, kids at kindergarten and maybe first grade should get some token of participation for their activities. But after that it seems to morph into not keeping score at soccer or baseball games. Or not grading school work so no one is offended.

Not so fast! Children need to learn that they aren’t always going to have their egos stroked into a self-esteem frenzy that eventually leads them to believe they should start with the corner office and a supervisor position. Maybe they haven’t found a job yet because no one but them believes in their worth. Oh, wait, in the real world you have to prove yourself first.

Awarding everyone for showing up is counterproductive. Why would a top salesman, for example, keep producing at a peak level if his mediocre peer was paid the same? Or why would anyone pursue an engineering degree if the receptionist was paid the same wage? Or even more dramatic, Why would a doctor go through eight years of schooling plus an internship if she were paid the same as a nurse with a four year degree?

I don’t mean to insult any profession. It is just that the more effort you put forth, the more likely you are to be more successful monetarily or otherwise. Likewise, you are more likely to succeed if you like what you do.

Rewards and failure are a part of a feedback mechanism that helps guide a child to their talents. They soon learn what they are good at and what they don’t care for. Participation awards interfere with that process. And kids are hard to fool for long. They know when they haven’t earned something even if they won’t admit it.

Far too often, I see in stores, public events, and elsewhere that the child is now in the driver’s seat. There are parents who coddle their children, meeting their every desire and catering to their every whim in the name of self-esteem. Those children appear to be, and probably are, brats who have never failed, never been told they aren’t good at everything, and have never been told no.

As a parent, it is a struggle to balance praising your kids when they deserve it, and admonishing them when the need arises. Even spanking (gasp) may be necessary, So sue me, my kids are raised, the statute of limitations is past, and the rare spankings they got didn’t scar them for life.

The best thing parents can do is let their children fail, and then offer moral support, not platitudes, and send them out to try again. You owe it to your children to teach them that the liberal “there are no winners or losers” mentality is a lie.

Tom Riggins is an LVN columnist and may be reached at


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