I want to preface this post with this:
I fully believe that every single person on the planet has something unique and special to offer to the world. Just by our being here, we will influence people and we will make a difference – if we choose to.
But, now, I have to get up on my soapbox for a moment:
I have worked with children for years. I love children. Some more than others. Some WAY more than others.
Alright, some I outright abhor.
These are the ones that think that they are all that because they have been told this over and over and over again. They have been given a false sense of entitlement. They think that every single person in the world should treat them like the royalty that they have been led to believe they are.
And why shouldn’t they believe that? I have reams of certificates from my sons’ schools saying that they are “special.” For example:
Good Attendance Award: this award is given for not missing any school in a quarter. Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that you were supposed to go to school every day unless you were a) throwing up & running a fever; b) just hit by a car/bus/any other vehicle; c) had to go to a funeral of a CLOSE relative (cousins twice removed don’t count…unless you’re in West Virginia cause then they might also be a sibling); d) you are having life saving surgery.
See, I don’t think you should get an award for something that you should be doing anyway. Which leads me to my next one:
Citizenship Award: this award is given for being a good citizen. In my school days, this was considered something that you should do every day and not get rewarded for. In fact, this is something everyone should do everyday. It covers being helpful, polite, conscientous, etc. In other words, treating your fellow students the way you would like to be treated.
Since when did this become award worthy? I thought we were all supposed to be doing this!
There are tons more. Homework award (doing your homework every night), Testing award (doing well on tests), Friendly award (for being friendly).
These things are all things that are supposed to be done in school. You’re supposed to do homework, you’re supposed to do well on tests, you should never be rude. Why do these get a certificate?
I can understand a certificate for making an honor roll (you have to work hard to achieve that). I can understand singling out a valedictorian or salutorian at high school graduation. Those things should be celebrated.
But that other stuff? Those are responsibilities, not things that should be given awards for. That would be like me giving my kids a certificate for doing their chores. No, thank you.
And don’t even get me started on youth sports.
Hasn’t anyone figured out that if EVERYONE gets a special trophy then NO ONE is special? We hand them out like they are candy and they are about as worthless. It’s another piece of hardward to put on a shelf somewhere so that it can collect dust.
The dust is probably more special than the wholesale trophy that was handed out to EVERY SINGLE teammember.
And the kids expect these things!
Because we have conditioned them to expect them.
Why can’t we make children understand the difference between being truly exceptional and the difference between participation and responsibility?
Because we don’t want to.
My generation is the worst. The baby boomers were unduly under the influence of Dr. Spock and other pop psychologists when they raised their children. Then we grew up in the 80’s (Greed is good….instant gratification) where we got pretty much whatever we wanted.
Now we have children.
I have always made it a point of pride to tell my children “No.” I remember being in a store and my children going nuts over the check out counter candy, asking if they could have some. I told them, “No, and don’t ask me again. You don’t need any candy.” The guy at the counter looked at me and said, “I don’t know how many times I’ve seen kids come through here and throw a fit and their parents just give in. You’re the first one that I’ve seen say ‘No.'”
Don’t parents understand that “NO” is a word that their children will hear more often throughout their life than any other word?
– “No, we’re not hiring.”
– “No, I don’t want to date you.”
– “No, you’re not qualified.”
I mean, telling your children “Yes” all the time leaves them ill-equipped to deal with the real world.
Know who says “yes” to your children all the time?
How about you try being a parent instead of a friend?
How about you do your job and prepare your child for the real world rather than coddling them and giving them an unreal idea of how the world is going to treat them?
Your child is special, no doubt. They’re special because they are here. They will make a difference in the world because they exist.
But, let’s face it. How many of the children out there are truly exceptional?
Childhood should not be the best times of their lives. Childhood should be a safe, secure time where they learn how to be productive adults and they get a good foundation to go out and have the best times of their lives.
A teacher at Wellsely High School gave the following speech. I thought it summed up very nicely what I’m trying to say here and did it with humor and panache as well.
Notice he ended his speech with this comment: “The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special. Because everyone is.”
No one person is more special than anyone else.
We would do well to teach our children this.