Should Every Kid Get a Participation Medal? Here’s Why Experts Say “No”

Kids may feel bad and cry when they don’t win a competition, but does this mean they should get a medal nonetheless? Just because a child participated in a competitive event, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should get a participation medal. The debate is hot, and here’s what experts have to say on the subject.

A Participation Medal for Anything?

Children today grow up getting trophies, medals, and ribbons for virtually any sports event, competitive game, spelling bee, science fair, and Boy Scout excursion. Most millennial have entire troves of old trophies and medals collecting dust in carton boxes.

The intention behind these awards is simple. They are meant to ease the pain of losing and give kids a small reminder of their participation in an event. However, few kids actually attach any significance to these awards, as each other kid received pretty much the same.

With tens of millions of identical trophies and medals across the country, it’s hard to feel special. Thanks to the internet, today you can easily order personalized trophies, awards, and football medals online. These often cost less than two dollars each and ship within a few days!

The Actual Purpose of Medals and Trophies

Medals are, by definition, trophies. Trophies in turn are tangible rewards given in recognition of a particular achievement. They are meant to distinguish and award a person for something they did well.

Popular opinion seems to agree with the above. Polls showed than 57% of all Americans believe that only kids who win should receive a medal. The same polls seem to indicate that the concept that every kid should get a medal stems from political beliefs, and not science.

However, giving medals also seems to teach children that there are “loser” and “winners” in life, which is something that modern psychology rejects.

So, what does science say on the subject?

Learning to Lose

According to psychologists, the answer is not that simple. The main point is that kids should not receive participation medals just for showing up. However, awarding medals should always promote excellence and not the division between winners and losers.

Teaching kids that everyone’s a winner at heart might not be the best thing to do. Instead, you should focus on praising effort and identify how a kid can improve to win the next time.

In the same vein, no kid is born a winner. Teaching kids they are a “natural winner” might end up making them demotivated and could even lead to superiority complexes.

Children are smart and they understand that participation medals are not the same as winning. Instead of meaningless medals, let’s focus on giving guidance and advice to help kids do better next time!

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