The article goes on about sports, but a similar thing happens in many areas. Graduation from preschool or early grades. Recognition for minor things.
In one sense, I can agree with the article and the original poster. Too much recognition over minor things is a problem.
On another sense, I disagree with them and agree with those who want to recognize children.
There are some good things to reward, and some bad things to reward.
When a child is recognized "You are so smart", or "You are so fast", or some other uncontrollable trait, those are bad rewards that a few people mistakenly say. They are bad for recognizing attributes outside the child's control, like a reward for being tall or a reward for having rich parents. These are well studied and are known to backfire badly. The child says "What if I am not smart? What if it was a fluke?" or they think "What if I try and fail, does that mean I am not smart?" Many kids will shut down, become withdrawn or anxious, and if the recognition stops they fear they have lost the trait.
Recognition like "You worked so hard for this", or "You overcame your challenges" or "You figured out what needed to be done, and you did it", these rewards can be powerful for good. These are things inside a child's loci of control. The child learns that they can take an action and the can be rewarded for those actions. Like a 'participant' ribbon they are not told they are the best, but they are rewarded for the efforts they contributed. They get a "good job" and a pat on the back and they are encouraged to continue to participate in new challenges again.
Too many children have really terrible lives. I work with youth about 6 hours per week, but my wife volunteers countless hours (and is paid for a small number of hours) each year to several local public schools. I've seen some of these stories, but she tells me (anonymous) horror stories about some of the kids and the lives they are coming from. Some have frequent welfare checks to see if the child should be removed from not quite illegally abusive families, others are not quite illegally neglectful families. Stories of 7 year old and 8 year old children basically raised by older siblings and no money for things like food (but the parents have money for alcohol and smokes). Stories of 14 year old kids who get jobs to help the family budget. Stories of childhood rape victims who overcome tremendous fear to simply attend school. Stories of kids who are bullied in school, teased mercilessly to the point of considering suicide and completely dropping out of school, or otherwise have serious concerns.
Too many of these kids need recognition. In their personal life they have no hope, they are degraded, they have no self esteem, they struggle for the most basic things. For too many kids these recognitions are among the only "good job" they will receive in life. There are many kids who see the near goal with the tiny token of recognition at the end, and that little bit of recognition is an amazing motivator.
I have watched kids get recognized where a teacher tells to everyone that the student worked especially hard and overcome extra challenges, and it has transformed the child's life. I watched several years ago one girl, about age 10 who only two leaders knew was repeatedly raped by her father until he was finally arrested and the family moved, get a reward for her efforts. After the brief recognition she tried to hide but her new friends kept her (quite uncomfortably) in the spotlight. They didn't know why the girl was so reclusive but they lavished praise on her for simply showing up. The other girls didn't know why she was reclusive and didn't like to participate, but they constantly praised her for her efforts. I watched over several years as the group of girls supported the reclusive girl and helped her learn to trust humanity again.
In the first group, of course there are the ones described in the article and original post. Some of the entitled kids will continue to feel even more entitled.
In a second group, some of the kids will just put the reward and recognition on a shelf along with all their other awards and trophies. But that by itself is not a bad thing, building their esteem and a feeling that they actually do have the ability to accomplish something. They will internalize messages like "I can apply myself to reach goals", which is a good thing.
And in a third group, for many others the rewards are all they have. They have very little to build on in their lives, and even though to outsiders it may seem a minor triumph, the task of completing a grade of school or finding time to practice an instrument while raising their siblings or practicing for a winning team while facing abuse at home or whatever it is, the seemingly minor triumph may have required a Herculean effort from the child.
For the last two groups, YES, we should recognize their achievements and recognize their efforts. Even if it may not seem like much to you, it can mean the world to the child.
Edited by frob, 26 July 2014 - 12:58 AM.