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Losing is Good for You

Friday, October 4, 2013

<p>A number of years ago, I was packing up the home my children had grown up in to move to Southern California. &nbsp;My son, who was in college at the time, had acquired a couple of boxfuls of trophies from soccer and baseball. These were the same trophies made of ticky-tacky that sports leagues across the country hand out for participation, for playing in the finals and for being a good sport. I asked him if he wanted them and he said no. I thought that odd and assumed that when he was older, perhaps he would want them. So I dutifully packed them up and moved them to La Jolla. Nine years later, I was packing up the La Jolla house to move to San Francisco. I asked Michael about the trophies, and he said, “No really, I don’t want them.”&nbsp;</p>

<p>Last week “<a href="" target="_blank">Losing is Good for You</a>” appeared in the OP-ED page of the&nbsp;New York Times. Now I think I know why Michael did not want the trophies. &nbsp;When every child gets a trophy for every accomplishment, no matter how small, the trophies lose all meaning as markers of effort. And I am sure I am not the only mother relegating unwanted trophies to the trash. As Ashley Merryman says in the article, “We need to refuse all the meaningless plastic and tin destined for landfills. We have to stop letting the Trophy-Industrial Complex run our children’s lives. This school year let’s fight for a kid’s right to lose.”</p>

<p>As numerous sports seasons begin, as well as a new school year, let’s all remember this from Merryman’s essay: “When children make mistakes, our job should not be to spin those losses into decorated victories. Instead, our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss, and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed.”</p>