Monday, March 19, 2012

You don't get a trophy for trying when you're an adult

I grow very concerned for our nation while I watch a generation come of age without the skills needed to succeed in life.  Somehow the Millennials, those born about 1980 through 1995, have come to believe that the trophy they were awarded in t-ball some how signified success.  And that success was determined by the mere fact that they participated in said t-ball.  AND, the only reason they participated in the t-ball was because their parents took them to the t-ball game and paid for the trophy.  Somehow this false sense of achievement percolated through their formative years in school and extracurricular activities.  Along with this false sense of achievement has come an increased attitude of helplessness.  When confronted with a challenging task now that they are adults, the effort isn't put forward.  And why should it be.  After all, in t-ball, all you had to do was show up.  And, if you didn't show up, it wasn't your fault.  It was mom and dad's fault.  After all, you couldn't drive yourself to t-ball.  Mom and dad had to bring you there.

This generation has been crippled in a sad way.  It is difficult for me to feel compassion for them when confronted with the whining and complaining.  Yet this really is a very sad situation.  If I push past the whining and look at the bare bones of these adults I can see some real deficiencies and indulgences.  The one deficiency that jumps out at me is the dearth of competition with their peers.  This generation had to look for their heroes and bar setters outside their classroom or team sport or other extracurricular.  Comparing kids to kids was not allowed.  This may hurt someone's self esteem.  Unfortunately, they found their heroes in professional athletes or movie stars or whatever.  Since there was NO WAY they could compete in any real way with these individuals, the competition was removed from the immediate activity.  It wouldn't be fair if one child was better at something than another.  We don't want anyone to feel bad about their performance.  After all, they tried.  Competition was removed from the equation in their formative years.  Sadly, competition has not been removed from the real adult grown-up world.  These folks are unprepared.

This generation has also been crippled by the indulgence of ever available praise and assistance.  There have been so many programs devoted to this generation.  There were extra teachers in the classrooms.  There were reward programs geared for just "showing up" to class.  Every "disability" was viewed as a special need and more responsibility was removed from the child.  The only way a child was "special" was if there was a learning or behavior problem.  Gee, who doesn't want to be special now?

So what happens when these GenYer's grow up?  How do you feel proud of yourself when your best efforts amount to mediocrity?  How do you train yourself, as an adult, to work hard enough to achieve excellence when you've never been rewarded for doing so?  How do you train yourself to seek excellence in a world that doesn't care enough to tell you, you aren't good enough?

I guess you can get that tattoo or that facial piercing to feel special.  But, how about trying harder?  How about giving your work your VERY BEST effort?  How about trying to be the best instead of just getting by?  In the real adult grown-up world, your boss isn't "picking on you" when you don't get a excellent performance evaluation.  In the real adult grown-up world, your performance means more than promoting yourself on twitter or facebook or your website.  In the real adult grown-up world, most people DON'T get a trophy.  Only the winners get trophies.

I'm grateful for
51.  Complete recovery from my three week ailment
52.  A desk full of work to keep me busy
53.  A co-worker in the mood to bake cookies
54.  Finding a connection with my son and having a couple really nice chats
55.  Vacation planning
56.  Tulips in a vase on my kitchen counter
57.  The first paid advertisement on my blog  


  1. nice bit of a rant...and i agree this next generation has an entitled attitude...i think too you can look at how we placate them....they have far more 'toys' and expensive toys than previous generations....and the toys we gave are more isolationist toys...

  2. Hmmm... I'm not sure what I think about this. My best guess is that, for me, there's a difference between trying and just-showing-up. I think trying should be rewarded. I don't think just-showing-up counts as trying. When I was a high school teacher, I madly rewarded my students for effort: coming every day, paying attention, participating in class discussions, doing the homework... I made them do a lot of work, but was more concerned that they put their best effort into it, than that they got it right. I had one student, bless his heart, who didn't get anything right, but he sure tried. I was OK with that... he passed even if he didn't ace the course, and I put in lots of extra time trying to help him. Because he was trying. I really believe in the power of effort... even though we don't all produce masterpieces. Is this what you're saying, or do we disagree on this one?

  3. I hear you sister! Especially since all three of my children were born in the those years where "Everyone is a winner" It has always driven me crazy and don't get my poor dad started who was born during our greatest generation! Competition is a good thing and sadly they really didn't experience alot of it or the type we did as kids. I know I'm sounding old when I say, "Kids today, they just don't get it" but they don't! I am afraid for our future. Hopefully the pendulum when swing the other way again! Thanks for your very insightful writings!

  4. Well said and thought provoking. I think often of a phrase I heard growing up. SOmething about "too many chiefs and not enough Indians".  We all have job to do, find it and do the best you can, you won't always win, this is life.   

  5. I was really surprised a few years ago when a friend who started coaching soccer at a private school got everyone a trophy at the end of year banquet, so they would all be winners.  I told him then I didn't agree with that.  Since I don't have children, I don't have much of a voice in matters like that, but I think you are right - they are being set up for major disappointment later.

  6. One of the problems I have with trophies when participating in something is that! The actual trophy to "keep the kids motivated." For me, the participating in the game, that's the gift! Then the kids do something only if they get something in return. Something meaning a thing or a word saying "you are great." I don't give my girls a trophy for participating in a game or for doing well in violin BECAUSE that in itself is the gift. Then the kids say "what are you going to give me for doing this (that is good for me), if you don't give me anything, I won't move a finger." Also, helping around the house, give me something and I'll do it. No honey, we ALL keep our home beautiful and your gift is the enjoyment of living in a clean and organized home. Ok, now I'm changing the subject. 

  7. Oh friend, how I love this post. Let me count the ways. I deal with a lot of people in my life who are lazy, incompetent, quitting, un-motivated, whiny mooches who have no self esteem or self respect. And like you point out it comes from ___. All of our actions come from something. Overly passive parents who are afraid to hurt their child's feelings create adults who do nothing for themselves. If the parents won't hold the child accountable for their actions or mistakes why would that child be responsible as an adult? They won't. Parents seem to forget their sole purpose is to love their child and prepare them for adulthood. Letting them fail and teaching them how to recoup from it. Making sure their punishments are followed through. Holding them accountable for everything. When a child or an adult does things on their own their self esteem and self worth show it which in turn makes them successful at whatever they do.

  8. Wow! That was overly negative, condescending and nasty! I happen to know a lot of hard-working, kind, unselfish Gen-Yers myself. There are a lot of problems that Gen-Yers face.. the job market is dreadful, and with the incredible boom in divorces and lay-offs that happened during their childhood years, so many were left with a shattered vision of reality, financial difficulties as young people, and a yearning for love and acceptance that gave them many obstacles to overcome. 

    I would recommend praying for those you feel are lacking in this life, rather than bashing them ruthlessly on the internet. 

  9. Maybe there has been too much stuff put out there for kids to have.  Maybe the incentive to try isn't as strong. I don't know.  But each generation has difficulty with those that come after.  I am sure my parents shook their heads at my generation too. Live and let live is what helps me to see that the diversity in people makes life interesting. 


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