Here’s Why Not Every Kid Should Get A Ribbon. . .

Apparently the debate rages on. Some parents are still convinced they should not encourage their kids to confront the challenges of competition. It seems that they are concerned, amongst other things, that to not be successful when competing can cause some deleterious outcome that could scar their kids for life–damage their frail egos and crush their self-esteem. What’s  more likely to happen is that their kids will grow up not understanding that non-success can be a great teacher. It is how we learn. It shows us that we will not always win. Not winning doesn’t lessen us as human beings. This is a great life lesson and one that needs to be lived and experienced so that we have a healthy perspective on life itself. I’m all for protecting our children and we need to help keep them out of harms way. But the other side says that competition is good for our kids. Some would say necessary. It teaches them how to accept victory with grace and class (that’s if the parents are doing what they need to do and that is teaching those principles). It also teaches them how to participate as a team member if the competition is based on team work as opposed to an individual activity. If it’s an individual activity then the competition is not against an opponent as much as it is within ourselves–striving to do our personal best. They also need to learn how to accept losing with grace and class. This is what real life is like. They need to understand that there will be times when their best effort will not be good enough. Disappointment is as much a part of life as success. But if they are used to competing they will more likely gather their skills and their strengths, decide what they have to do to be more successful and get back to it. Competing is as much about attitude as it is behaviour.

There are so many types of activities that are open to competition. We compete for jobs, for promotions at work, for recognition, with ourselves, sports and marks at school just to name a few. Almost everything we do has an element of competition to it and to tell our kids that competition is not important is to do them a great disservice. It is not reality. Better we teach them how to compete but it needs to be balanced with all the other things in our lives that are equally important. Should everyone get a ribbon just for showing up?? I think that everyone should be recognized in some way for showing up but rewarded–NO.

Everyone likes to win. Kids love to win. It can build great internal strength in victors and when we talk about self-esteem nothing strengthens self esteem like victory and self confidence. I don’t agree that winning is everything and I don’t agree that people should be judged or assessed by what they have but the truth is that society rewards those who have tasted victory. Competing helps to define what you have learned along your way. Dedicate yourself to providing your best effort at most things you do; Be the best parent you can be; Be the best citizen you can be; Be the best employee or the best employer. Be and do the best you can and you will experience your fare share of victories.

Yes winning is important. To win one needs to be encouraged to compete. Competing provides the opportunity to practice hard earned life lessons that will serve our children well in the real world. Those who embrace competition tend to become hard working, dedicated, passionate, not afraid to try new things and are usually highly self-motivated. I, for one, want my kids to demonstrate these qualities in their day to day lives.

If kids are telling their parents that they are not having any fun or that they are disappointed  with their athletic experiences perhaps they just don’t like physical activities. Maybe they are skilled and competitive in other unrelated areas. Let them determine where they want to compete. Don’t force them to do it if they aren’t suited for the challenges they will face. If they aren’t then help them find something that is more to their liking-something they have a gift for-something they truly enjoy participating in. They may be better suited to compete for the lead role in a play or to play a musical instrument in the band-who knows?  We should never force our kids to compete in an activity for which they have no skill or desire to play. Is it our egos as parents that is getting in the way of our kids enjoying their activities? Everyone is good at something.

Not every kid should get a ribbon that says ‘thanks for coming by.’ If they want to participate but not compete let that be their decision. However, lets not overlook the kids who work hard at being as good as he/she can be. They need to be acknowledged for his/her efforts.

Anyways, that’s how I see it–Jim

Agree or disagree/ Let me know–feedback is always welcome. Connect with me if you like at     OR    visit my web site for more information at

Please pass this on to friends and other contacts.

2 thoughts on “Here’s Why Not Every Kid Should Get A Ribbon. . .”

  1. You are so right Jim! I remember as if it was yesterday when you and I both played our first competitive hockey game – we lost 11-0. But we learned what we did wrong, how to compete, and eventually we were competitive against that team that so badly beat us. I believe that those lessons we both gained in hockey, football and baseball contributed to later success we both enjoyed – on the field, in the arena and in the rest of our lives. Remember Ed Foster who built a team from a bunch of us not good enough to make the town baseball team? He taught us to practice, to compete, to enjoy the game and competition, and to never fear failure. We went on to win the championship of a league in the next town down the road and a few years later we essentially became the “town” team that most of us were not good enough to make a few years earlier. We went on to win the Southern Ontario Championship and lose in the All Ontario Championship final to a team that featured Bobby Orr. The fact is that life is, in effect, a competition. We compete for jobs, we compete for contracts, we compete for business. In my business we have had to compete with companies from around the world – companies from countries that encourage competition. Sure, give everyone a participation memento, but make sure both winners and losers learn the appropriate life lessons that winning and losing can teach. To do otherwise is a disservice to our children and our society.

    • Greetings Bob–thanks for the nice little cruise down memory lane–I always thought that Ed Foster was a great coach–and that he exemplified what a coach is supposed to be and do. We did-I did learn some great lessons that have followed me from those days and yes we did learn to never quit–we did prove that we could win against those who supposedly were better. Not bad for a group of misfits. I’m not even sure we knew or cared what we were up against at the time–we just knew that we could win because Ed was the man and he knew we could. He never got the credit he deserved. Great time–it was good to have gone through it with you and the other guys too. Joey, Stan etc. You weren’t so bad yourself there Bob–I remember the games you threw that we,supposedly, had no chance of winning and yet you ‘managed’ to get the job done–nicely done. There weren’t many who considered us a threat. I guess they didn’t know us very well. Thanks for the feedback and the comment–we’ll chat again I’m sure–all the best–jim


Leave a Comment


Author Jim Cloughley's 
Brand New Blueprint For Learning