As told by Tam: rewards and consolation prizes limit our potential

Tamra Smalewitz

I have learned that over the past couple of years when it comes to the matter of winning and losing, is a normal way of life. Growing up my parents taught me never to quit and to always try my hardest, because sometimes I will not win. I won many sports games and I lost many sports games and that is how the cookie crumbled.

Back in my day not everybody received a ribbon, medal, or trophy just for participating in an event. There was a winner and there were losers and that is the way it was. Nowadays though children are taught that they are all winners and if you participate in something, i.e. Basketball, Soccer, Track, or Baseball, you get a reward at the end. Now that seems like it is all in good fun, but in my opinion not everybody deserves a prize.

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By allowing all the children to win a prize has many negative repercussions in the future, because it teaches kids that they are all winners and whenever they participate in something they would need a reward at the end.

An article by Aflie Kohn, human behavior, parenting and education expert and author, discussing rewarding children for completing certain tasks and why that won’t help them in the long run.  

“At least two dozen studies have shown that people expecting to receive a reward for completing a task (or for doing it successfully) simply do not perform as well as those who expect nothing,” Kohn explains. 

The point is that if children are used to a reward for finishing a task, they will always expect to be rewarded for simply completing a task, not for the caliber of their work or effort. If this bare-minimum mindset of “all that matters is that my tasks are completed” carries into adult life, that makes it difficult if not impossible to succeed and excel in the workplace. We can’t teach kids to think that completing their homework and other normal responsibilities means they will receive a reward for doing so, but it is reality kids you do not get a reward for doing a simple task we all have to do.

Kohn also states that “good values have to be grown from the inside out. Attempts to short-circuit this process by dangling rewards in front of children are at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive.” Children do not deserve any kind of consolation prize for losing or rewards for doing what they are supposed to do, because learning how to lose is key to be successful in life.

Coddling children by telling them they are all winners often causes them to feel entitled and act irresponsibly. An article from the Global Post says, “Children who are coddled and praised just for breathing leads to them expecting praise as they grow up. When they don’t receive it, they can become angry and frustrated. Coddled kids tend to be dependent and frail, never learning to develop the skills and mental fortitude needed to really be a star in their area of choice.”

Here at CSU, College professors aren’t going to applaud you for coming to class even when you really don’t want to or for turning in an assignment on time, though there are some students who think they should. We need to find ways to earn their applause for doing something that goes beyond what is simply expected of us.

Much of our generation learned at a young age that we are not all winners, and as the times have changed, it is now our job to set an example for the younger generation of hard work and striving to exceed expectations under the notion that sometimes you will lose, and you will have to accept that. That’s life, and life does not hand you anything; even those lemons everyone always talks about. You need to reach out and grab your own lemons, make your own lemonade and realize that experience is your reward.

Collegian Columnist Tamra Smalewitz can be reached at hmcgill@collegian.com, or on Twitter @tamrasmalewitz.