My first grader announced she was trying out for the end-of-the-year school Talent Show with a couple of girls in her class.
They had rehearsals at recess. And she practiced at the kitchen table. And outside.
I didn’t voice my surprise at this announcement. But I was surprised. She can be shy in front of other people. And she doesn’t usually love that kind of attention.
But I signed the permission slip, encouraged and reminded her that no matter what the outcome, to have fun.
The group did the Cup Song (inspired by first graders who did the same song the year before).
Only my little girl’s cup rolled off the table. Twice.
She seemed a little worried, but nothing that a cookie after school didn’t fix.
When I picked her up the next day, she told me her group didn’t make the Talent Show.
She was disappointed. There wasn’t a ribbon or trophy. No stage or recognition.
We talked about something unique she could do next year. She’s already planning.
Because here’s what she did win: she learned something by losing.
And that made her want to try again.
Losing is a good part of life. It helps us define what we win even in loss. It builds character. It makes us work harder.
Because in real life, not everyone can win all the time..
And that’s why letting everyone win is a big problem.
The participation trophies and the we-can’t-pick-winners-because-it-will-make-losers-feel-excluded are nothing more than a temporary reward for our kids. Making everyone feel like a winner is actually creating a culture of people who don’t know how to lose.
And it’s not just in sports and talent shows, last week a school actually called off their annual Honor Awards Ceremony in exchange for low-key recognition that didn’t make the rest of the kids feel left out since honor ceremonies are “exclusive” in nature. Seriously, I thought that was the point. Let’s not reward those who’ve had exceptional grades because it might make those who didn’t feel left out?
Here’s the problem with letting everyone win: When no one loses, it doesn’t make everyone a winner. It robs our kids of a chance to learn through failure or being excluded.
Letting everyone win empowers entitlement. It gives our children the false sense of security that we are owed something just for showing up. Letting everyone win doesn’t really make us work harder. That’s mostly learned through losing.
Participation does not always equal success.
And losing doesn’t make failures.
“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” Elbert Hubbard
So, the next time your kid loses or is excluded or doesn’t get picked, hug them. And remind them the real reward is in trying.
Because there’s always next year.