I’m going against the modern grain and teaching my children that not everyone wins, and here’s why.
They were at it again. I could hear my boys squabbling over yet another episode of “Special Agent Oso.” It had come to the end of the episode where the stuffed bear agent “rewards” the viewing children with a special medal.
My boys always, without fail, will start arguing long before the medal part shows up. They argue over who is going to be the winner of the medal. Sometimes it gets pretty heated. They will even get physical with each other on occasion. It’s actually quite comical for me to witness.
When they first started fighting over the silly medal on this tv show, I almost stepped in.
I almost stepped in and told them that they needed to share the medal; that everyone wins.
Then, I stopped myself.
What exactly would I be teaching them by saying that? To be honest, I’m still tempted to squelch the competitive fires by making those statements because it would just be easier on me. I wouldn’t have to deal with the constant arguments. But, my goal is to teach my children about life and I refuse to teach them that everyone wins. I won’t start now.
Because it’s not true.
This might, perhaps, be the most obvious and most simple answer, and yet it is the most ignored. Not everyone wins. That’s just a fact of life.
If everyone wins, then there really are no true winners.
I want my children to face life understanding that there really isn’t a prize for everyone. When they come to their adult lives, they will see that not everyone gets promoted, not everyone receives recognition, not everyone gets a raise and so on. If I teach them that everyone wins, I offer false views in face of reality.
It’s just not true. Not everyone wins.
It could eventually make them feel entitled.
Over the past ten years, a growing trend has been emerging. We now have schools that no longer offer just 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes. They offer somewhat ridiculous prizes to every single person so that not one person feels left out. Instead of treating children equally, this just gives them a sense of entitlement. It makes them feel like they are owed something, whether or not they have worked for it.
As a result, we now have a generation of upcoming adults who don’t care about trying or working hard. They feel like they are owed the world without trying. A sense of entitlement begins young, and the idea that everyone wins has been one of the attributions to that.
It destroys motivation.
If everyone wins, then there is no reason to work hard. Why bother trying when you know that in the end everyone wins? If our children don’t have a goal to work for, then there is no motivation in trying.
I loved competitions all throughout my childhood. I tried so hard because I desperately wanted to win at something. I didn’t win often, but there was always the satisfaction in trying and doing my best. It also gave me goals to work for next time.
If everyone wins, that motivation is zapped. What’s the point? There is no real goal to work for.
It gives them false expectations.
Along with feeling entitled, letting my children think that everyone wins just offers them false expectations for the future. They will come to expect to always be rewarded. With this mentality, they would receive a huge slap in the face when the real world does not hand them rewards for all they’ve done. Once again, understanding that they must work hard and that they might not always “win” will help them push to be better.
SO, WHAT AM I GOING TO TEACH MY CHILDREN INSTEAD?
Everyone is important.
Though not everyone will win every time, everyone is significant. My children will grow up knowing that they matter and because they matter, they must work hard at whatever they do. They must realize that they are always a part of a bigger picture.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31).
Though they might sometimes feel insignificant in comparison to others, they are important. God created each of them for a unique purpose. They have been divinely molded.
My children will know that when they work hard, even if they aren’t rewarded, they are playing an important role for a bigger purpose. Even in the corporate world, a company could not function properly without the custodians who work tirelessly each night to keep the buildings clean.
The same goes for anything in life.
Though you might not always “win,” that doesn’t mean you aren’t important and doesn’t excuse you from working hard.
Everyone is unique with different strengths.
If everyone was a construction worker, we would have no musicians. The world would be silent. I could go on and on with multiple “if everyone was” statements. But, it’s so true. God did not create all of us with the same strength. He did that on purpose. We are all unique and all have different strengths.
It is not illogical to expect that a child whose strength is in music will not win very often at sports. The same goes for it in reverse. Granted, there are people who are well-rounded in all areas. But, when we say that everybody wins, we diminish the true strengths in people. We then strip away the motivation for higher achievement.
But then what about the children who really struggle and not winning makes them feel worse?
Encouragement starts in the home. Instead of allowing our children to think everyone wins, we must grab the real bull by the horns and encourage their own strengths. We must be willing to recognize the strengths our children do have and not push them into something they might not otherwise enjoy or be good at.
We need to encourage them to see that not winning is good motivation for working harder. We can help them set goals for doing better next time. Not winning is a propellent for improvement and possible future success.
Instead of removing our children from the responsibility of working harder, let’s help them see that failure is just a stepping stone to greatness.
The most recognized and influential individuals did not get their success from believing that everyone wins.