“Losing is good for you,” said Ashley Merryman. But as your children return to school and fall sports, they are stepping back into a fantasyland where everybody is a winner and everybody gets a trophy. “Trophies were once rare things,” but manufacturers now churn out $3 billion worth of them a year. In one California youth soccer league, every player gets at least one trophy, and a third get two.
Our kids are not fooled: By age 5, research shows that “they are surprisingly accurate in identifying who excels and who struggles.” Telling them that everything they do is wonderful “does not inspire children to succeed.” It undermines their motivation to compete and strive for excellence, breeds narcissism, and leaves them unprepared for life’s inevitable failures, which come as a crushing shock.
Think about how those traits play out once young people go to competitive colleges, or move out into the work world. Losing teaches children about their strengths and weaknesses, about persistence, and about graciousness in defeat. It helps build character. To raise successful kids, we need fewer trophies and more losing.