MVP: Most Valuable Person

There has been a lot of attention given recently to the idea that trophies, participation ribbons, and other such tokens ought to be doled out to all the kids that show up. That's right. All they have to do is show up. This means that participation has become the acceptable standard for accomplishment. There are two main opposing schools of thought on this idea. This first would agree that “everyone is a winner” so everyone should get some type of praise or reward at the end of the day. The other believes that too much praise and awarding minimum effort can be damaging to children's self-esteem and the ideas they form about what the world “owes” them. I happen to belong to the second category. The other day I was talking to someone about this subject and they said, “There should only be one trophy, EVER. The only trophy that should be handed out should be to the MVP of the winning team. Not even the whole team. Just the MVP.” Mind you, I don't happen to have this extreme of a view, but the conversation did get me thinking about self-esteem vs an externally based sense of self, entitlement vs earning your place in the world, and praise vs encouragement.

As a parent and a therapist, these subjects are particularly interesting and important to me and bring up two ideas that I've been thinking about when it come to my counseling practice and raising my child.

  • It's not about you. Although seeing your child receive an award can bring on a sense of parental pride, trophies and ribbons lose their meaning when EVEYONE gets one. Sure, you get to put them on a shelf, hang them up on the wall, and point them out to grandparents and all your friends when they come over, but then someone might ask you what your child did to earn one. If you are answering honestly, to this you will have to say, they got it for being there. This is the point in the article where some some people reading this might say, what's the big deal? The big deal is that in the “real world” there are people who make it and others who don't. Nobody gives you an award for just showing up to your job or for caring for your children. People rarely tell you, “great job” or “you're amazing” when you put in a minimum amount of effort. What gets you through is hard work, tenacity, and a strong sense of self that comes from accomplishments and efforts.

  • You probably need to do more. Automatically saying “great job” to all the things your kid does won't cut it when it comes to helping them put into place the building blocks for their sense of identity and self worth. Instead, saying things like, “you tried really hard at that” or “you are excited about what you made” shows that you are acknowledging them and at the same time allowing them to place their own value on their accomplishment. This is a really powerful idea because then they start do things that feel right and rewarding to them and not because they are looking for praise or approval from you. They become more emotionally independent little people who look inside when they need to figure things out. By practicing this way of communicating with your child, you are showing them that they are truly a Most Valuable Person.

In conclusion, I just want you to know that I think you are so awesome for reading this article! If I could reach through this screen to hand you a trophy, I would. In fact, even if you just skimmed it, you still rock! Only read the title and headings?

Great job for just deciding to possibly learn something new.

Give yourself a high five!

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