Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: Raising Self-Confident Kids
I’ve said it before – we live in a world where “everyone gets a trophy.” To avoid the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, and to make all kids feel competent and confident, we hand out participation trophies – kids are rewarded whether they try their best or not.
And it’s not just trophies. The whole class is graded on a curve to accommodate the kids who fail to turn in assignments. Recreational sports teams have begun to not keep score. The list goes on.
As an adult, you can compare it to the workplace. You bust your tail getting to work on time, going above and beyond what’s outlined in your job description. Your coworker does nothing all day but scroll through her Facebook feed. But at the end of the year, you both get a raise.
The teammate of your son or daughter has literally kicked dirt all season. He never showed up for practice and he showed poor sportsmanship at games. Yet, as your child watches, he marches up to the coach to receive his trophy.
Why should your child try?
Simply put, living in a world where everyone is told he’s a winner does nothing to boost your child’s self-esteem or to instill in him a desire to try his best and hardest.
Not Every Kid is a Winner
Not in the competitive sense, anyway. Your child has some strengths, and mine has others. My 11 year old learned to read when he was 3. But he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. My 8 year old can pitch like an All-Star. But I’ll be darned if I can get that kid study his math.
Even if your kid is a Mensa International member, there’s bound to be something he’s just bad at. But before you hand over that participation trophy to boost his self-confidence, think about the message you’re sending.
You’re telling him he doesn’t have to try.
You’re telling her that it’s not okay to not excel at something.
You’re telling him that all he needs to do is show up.
And, most importantly, you’re degrading his confidence in his own value.
Boosting Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Instead of trying to bolster your kids’ self esteem by congratulating them on completing a task, why not reward them for doing a task well? That’s the first and best way you can help your child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Unfortunately, however, your children are being raised in an environment where not everyone agrees. So there are more specific things you can do as a parent or caregiver to ensure that your child’s sense of self-worth stays intact and remains at a healthy level. Here are XX ways you can foster self-confidence in your child.
1. Let her figure it out
Do you remember when your child was 2 or 3 years old? She struggled to pull her shirt over her head before bath time, and night after night you just did it for her. Then, one night she figured it out. Do you remember how her sunny little face lit up with pride?
That pride isn’t reserved for toddlers and their shirts. Your 15 year old will feel the same pride when he completes a math problem unassisted. Your 12 year old will feel the same pride when he finally figures out how to conjugate “to sit” in French. Letting your kid figure it out on his own is a simple way to encourage self-esteem.
2. Remind your child that no one’s perfect
When your child fails at a task (and he will), remind him that no one is perfect. This serves two purposes.
First, you will be teaching your child that he has strengths and he has weaknesses, just like every other human on the planet.
Second, you will be guiding him to be more accepting of others’ faults. With acceptance of himself will come acceptance of others.
3. Avoid the temptation to make comparisons
I’ll confess that I’ve caught myself a time or two on this one. My older son will say something to the effect of, “I’m hungry; I want a PB&J.” I’ve been known to start to come back with, “Look, son. Even your 3 year old sister knows how to use her manners.”
That’s not fair to the older child. Nor is it fair to the toddler. They’re each their own individual person, and they each have their own weaknesses. For example, my 11 year old would never dream of whacking me in the head like his sister does.
Be careful not to make comparisons between your children, or between your children and any other person. Your 7 year old still needs training wheels? So what? He rides his skateboard like a boss.
Respect your child’s differences and they’ll respect the things that make them unique.
4. Be confident, yourself
I wrote in my post about New Year’s resolutions how imperative I think it is that you project confidence to your kids. Here’s how a child’s train of thought goes:
“Daddy’s on a diet? What’s a diet? Oh. It’s because he thinks he looks fat. I think he looks fine. I think I look fine, too. Daddy doesn’t like his body? Maybe there’s something wrong with my body, too! Maybe I look fat…”
And so on. Of course, displaying self-confidence doesn’t mean that you must pretend you’re perfect. Part of projecting confidence is acknowledging that you’re not perfect, and that no one is.
5. Go easy on the little buggers
Your kids are going to fail at something. They’re going to be downright horrible at something. Don’t get angry at failures. Instead, encourage them to try again. If they try again and still don’t succeed, help them to embrace the fact that “you can’t win ‘em all.”
Do praise perseverance, but steer away from the insincere praise. Most importantly, allow your kids to fail. It’s only by surviving the failures that your kids will find their strengths.
Self-confidence isn’t receiving a trophy you didn’t earn. It’s learning the ability to stand up, brush off and either try again or admit that you’re an imperfect human, just like everyone else.