Stop Hurting Our Children!

Dear parents,

We are screwing up our children and it is time for us to stop. That is not meant to be funny, silly or tongue-in-cheek. This is not a Woody Allen or Jerry Seinfeld routine. This is real and important.

Here is the problem:

We don’t want to hurt our childrens’ feelings and or crush their self esteem so we have created programs and activities where everyone wins but the net result is that everyone loses.

In the real world we don’t give Nobel Prizes to everyone who is eligible.  We don’t hand out Academy Awards to every actor, director or give Grammies to every musician. Our bosses don’t congratulate us for just showing up to work nor does everyone get a sticker for being nice.

Those of you who aren’t parents might be shocked to learn that some schools have banned playing tag because they don’t want kids to feel badly by being “it.” Some schools don’t want children to run or play on the monkey bars because they might get hurt.

In other schools they wrestle with whether they should give out awards. It seems that they are concerned that Johnny and Sally might be hurt if they don’t get the same treatment as Jimmy and Kelly.

That sort of thing makes me insane. I want all of the students to have the same opportunity to win those awards. Make it a level playing field but let the kids play.

We owe it to our children to teach them how to deal with adversity. They need coping skills and protecting them from failure and hurt feelings isn’t going to spare them down the road.

I am not suggesting that we intentionally crush them- balance and moderation is important. But I don’t have a problem with my children seeing that outstanding work and effort is rewarded with something extra. I want them to be able to deal with whatever comes and that means exposure to something more than life in a bubble.

What do you think?

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  1. Mable Durham December 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

    And he did. My son has played on some bad Little League teams. Being a parent is one of the hardest most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.

  2. Aaron Biebert November 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    As you know Jack, I am 100% with you.

    Keep at it!

  3. Diana Stroe November 19, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Some parents want to challenging their kids by being a bit hard on them. They seldom praise their kids or even give rewards for their achievement. In this case, parents must be aware that like what treatment they want to get from their bosses, they also need to give that to their kids. Just like tap on the shoulder for a job well done.

    • Aaron Biebert November 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      Diana, this might sound harsh, but if I’m going to err one way or the other, I would rather be too harsh than too nice.

      That’s how life is. It’s more harsh than nice. Got to get our kids ready for it.

      With that said, I’d rather be right in the middle.

  4. Jennifer Devitt November 17, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Oh boy, this hockey mom agrees with you 150%!!!! I cannot stand that they don’t keep score in little league until they are 9/10. Don’t get me started on the no playing tag either! They dont want them to do anything and they wonder why obesity is a epidemic in US children!

    My son plays travel hockey & baseball…guess what its not fair and equal playing time. We pay a good amount of money and put in a good amount of time, we want them to be competitive, so kids sit. The parents and/or kids who cant take it, go back to rec league the next year.

    What does it teach my kids if every team gets a trophy – even the ones who never won a game? What does it teach kids about baseball when they bat the entire order even if there are 3 outs?

    I wonder if Jayme is onto something with the bullying?!?! Everyone is so concerned about hurting someones feelings and being fair that kids never learn to stand up for themselves. Life is not fair and equal. Not everyone gets the big promotion or raise or bonus for going above and beyond.

    What’s next, change the report card system so that kids who achieve honor roll can no longer be acknowledged because it will upset little Suzy or Joe who didnt?

    Sigh, I should stop, because I can go on and on and on!

    • Jack November 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      We are in this together. My son once told me that he wasn’t getting enough respect from the others kids on his soccer team.

      I told him to go earn it. Don’t tell me about it. Don’t cry to the other kids. Work hard, play hard and demand it based upon what you do. And he did. He is not the best player out there but he plays hard and the other kids don’t mess with him because they see that.

      When I coach I play everyone but in certain situations some kids get more playing time because that is how it works.

      We need to balance this nonsense. There is no reason to crush their egos and self esteem but neither should we create illusions of grandeur.

  5. Elena Patrice November 17, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Ah Jack, please don’t take this wrong or be “offended” (just had to say that! ;)), but… I think I love you … at least for being a fabulous parent who genuinely cares about his children, our children, children everywhere. Oh you give me hope in people!! This topic is an absolute, obnoxious soap box for me and gets me red-faced every time!!

    My child came to me the other day and say “I ‘hate’ bingo?” I asked her why and she stated, because she “didn’t win.” I started to laugh and said something like “get used to it – that’s life.” She proceeded to tell me that she cried in class when she didn’t get anything from the “treasure box” (CRINGE!!). I had a slight breakdown and my Italian took over and I had a drink (well, that was later). I talked with her long about how life really is and that winning and losing are both factors and so on and so on. I also told her that she would apologize to her teacher for crying and that she now understands better about games and the outcomes. Long story, but in the end I was glad the school didn’t have everyone win and apparently she wasn’t the only one crying – there were several. In my day, if you cried about something like that you were called what you were acting like and that was a “baby”! Really, my delivery is a little more “tactful” ;), but I gotta tell ya …

    Great post – thank you!!

    Much kindness,


    • Jack November 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Elena,

      The good news is that there are lots of parents who feel the same way that we do. I have had many discussions with them about this and never heard any dissent. I expect that it is there but I can’t tell you if they are just afraid to say so or if none of my friends/colleagues disagree with me.

      We grew up in that same era. I wouldn’t ever cry in front of my friends because being called a baby was among the worst insults.

      When my kids play games with me I try to win. I may not always try hard, but I don’t roll over. They get much more excited when they beat me that way. It is real and more rewarding.

  6. Cathy November 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I could not agree more. It’s one thing to get a certificate of participation – it’s another to get a trophy and yet that’s what always happens. I teach my kids through example – I share my performance reviews from work with them and explain how that translates into money – you know – the stuff that rules the world (whether we want it to or not).

  7. Jack November 15, 2011 at 12:47 am

    How about those Packers. They look tough.

  8. Bill Dorman November 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    I concur; it ill prepares our youth for real life.

    As I watch Monday Night Football, it’s just one big ‘C’mon man’……

  9. Bruce Sallan ( November 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    We can thank our beloved California, JB, for the birth of this idiotic self-esteem movement where NO one ever really wins!

  10. Alex November 14, 2011 at 11:58 am

    You’re right on, but it’s an easy thing to say. Now what do we do? You want to know why those schools ban tag or, in my area, ban homework and are trying to ban grades and such? Mainly because of parents. Parents, who are probably not that successful themselves (no insult intended — it’s just that you don’t find executives thinking like this), have this illusion about what will make their kid turn out “right”. They back it up with poor and mis-application of science to get to some very strange recommendations which are basically “let the kid roam free like a butterfly, never impose anything and never cause any stress”. These are the vocal parents and these are the ones who cause these outcomes.

    That said, these parents have an awesome point. Why do we need everyone to perform and achieve greatness? Isn’t the enjoyment of life a good thing? Who needs all the baggage of grades and homework. People will be able to survive fine on basic skills and happiness. That IS a great view on life as well, although I don’t share it to the extreme.

    • Jack November 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      Parents in my school know how I feel because I don’t hold back. There are lots of mothers and fathers who feel the same way but are hesitant to speak up.

      I don’t expect every child to be a superstar or a genius nor are all they all stupid.

      But they have to learn how to deal with life and this fear of hurting them is not helping our children. It is crippling them.

  11. Adam November 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I think losing is as important as winning when it comes to life. Eventually everyone has to deal with losing at something in life, and if we don’t prepare our kids for that event then we are failing them.

    I don’t mind some of the things that are done when kids are REAL little and just learning the game (not keeping score, for instance), but it shouldn’t be for very long.

    I hadn’t heard about schools outlawing tag or monkey bars, but it, sadly, doesn’t surprise me. As you said, there’s such a stigma to not hurting anyone’s feelings that it’s gotten out of hand.

    I didn’t make my high school baseball team when I tried it. Was I disappointed? Sure. But I knew I didn’t make it because I wasn’t good enough, so I worked to try and become better. I didn’t want to make it on a technicality (schools that don’t cut anyone). After all, that’s life.

    • Jack November 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      Hi Adam,

      Good to see you. I think that kids need to lose so that they learn how. It sounds like we are on the same page on this.

      Your story about the baseball team is one that is important. If we give our children everything how do they learn how to work harder.

  12. Joe November 14, 2011 at 9:42 am

    My son has played on some bad Little League teams. Everybody still gets trophies at the end of the season. Drives me crazy. But this is the America we live in…

    • Jack November 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Hey Joe,

      Last year my son’s soccer team came in second place. I loved it because they got to really compete. They received the normal trophies that all of the players get plus a medal.

      That distinction made a difference for me and more importantly it did so for the boys.

  13. Lori Gosselin November 14, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Hi Jack,
    I agree. As parents and teachers, it is our job to prepare children for life.When my kids got to middle school we learned they had something called a “closed campus” at lunch time. Even though they lived just two blocks from the school, they weren’t allowed to leave the school yard at lunch time. This was the result of two happenings. The first was the local merchants complaining about the kids hanging around their establishments at lunch time and the second was a young boy was hit by a truck and killed when he and his friends were clowning around at lunch time. It always seemed strange to me that the onus for safety and for proper conduct in local fast food places was placed on the school rather than on the children.
    I never did my children’s homework with them. That was their job so why did I have to sign it to show they’d done it? Wasn’t that the teacher’s job? It never made sense to me. What did that teach children? How did it foster responsibility? It didn’t.
    Maybe it starts before the kids get to school? Let them experience life – wins and losses – life is full of both! I never wanted to see my kids hurt or unhappy but neither did I want them to live “life in a bubble.” Barbara Coloroso says we need to teach kids that there is no problem so great it cannot be solved. Teaching problem solving. Now there’s an idea!

    • Jack November 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      Hi Lori,

      That life in a bubble makes no sense to me. My kids have friends whose parents are crippling them- they never give them a chance to fall.

      I hate that. How do we help them if we go running every time they hit a bump in the road.

      I make a point to check in with them on homework for two reasons.

      1) It gives me an opportunity to see what they are learning/doing in class.

      2) It is an area where I can help them develop discipline to do work first and then play.

  14. Jayme Soulati November 14, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Being a parent is one of the hardest most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. As a single mother by choice, the onus is on me.

    It takes a village.

    The extended “parents” include grandma and grandpa, teachers, counselors, friends, siblings, and coaches.

    The new rules of adolescence require everyone to play nice in the sandbox; has this created the spirit of bullying that is alive and well?

    Each of us lamented getting picked last to play dodge ball; I sat on the bench in varsity basketball and eventually got cut. I had no business being on that team, and the coach let me know it for sure.

    Children of accomplishment survive; others work harder. Parents need to be ultra sensitive to today’s youth and the atmosphere in which they’re growing because there are too many extenuating circumstances that contribute to poor self esteem later in life.

    I know it’s a good time for GOOD child psychologists and social workers to be in business. Our children need to trust they have an outlet and support from adults who unconditionally contribute to their upbringing and well-being…unlike the asshats at Penn State and elsewhere.

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