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Should Awards Go To Everyone? Or Just The Kids Who Actually Worked For It?

Awards: should they be for everyone or just the kids that really deserve them?

There I sat, in the hot cafeteria slash gym on the last day of school with a ball of nerves wringing their hands in my stomach. It was awards day and I was pretty sure my son would be one of the only kids not receiving a certificate of any sort of achievement. And yet I hoped I was wrong, knowing I wasn’t.

He doesn’t do many extra curricular activities like Cub Scouts or before-school choir, and he just missed perfect attendance by a day. Being in special ed, you can forget the straight A’s and honor roll recognitions. (I admit I was almost hoping for some sort of “special” award for kids like him but then they try not to let other parents know about the kids in special education so… that’s for another post.)

But at the same time, I’m thankful our school isn’t the kind that gives a pat on the back to every single student so that they all feel equal and praised even when they probably didn’t deserve it. I saw my son’s disappointment when his name was never called that day. But then later he mentioned that he might want to do before-school choir this coming school year. And I could tell that he realized he would have to work to get those accolades he coveted. It wasn’t going to come to him without a price. This is good, I thought.

Jennifer Moses wrote Awards for the masses at the Chicago Tribune. As a mom of kids that are part of the “left out” – the ones that would absolutely be the kids getting praised when they shouldn’t- I have to say I’ve seen the benefits of not rewarding students just for being there. I imagine, too, on the other side, if I were a parent of a child that does deserve special recognition, I wouldn’t want it down-played by everyone else getting in on it, too, when they really didn’t do anything but show up. She writes:

Why, then, does my generation of well-educated middle-aged parents undermine our kids by telling them how great they are when they’re not? Because we love them and want to protect them from the struggles and pain of regular life? Because we want to enhance our own standing as parents of exceptional kids?

And I think for me, my initial desire for my son’s name to be called was more the side of protecting him from feeling left out, not so that I felt proud or like a good parent. I know I am a good mom. And part of being a good mom to him is allowing him to realize he is not great at everything, but he totally might be, if he tries.

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