In today’s society, we live with the idea that “everyone is a winner.” When parents sign their kids up for extracurricular activities, the commonly asked question is, “will my child receive an award?” The common answer, yes. The days of appreciating praise and the joy and excitement over receiving a trophy are long gone. Today, it is expected.

What was once a symbol of accomplishment has become nothing more than a meaningless prize. Today, trophy sales are through the roof and it has become a money-guzzling industry in the U.S. Nowadays, every child receives an award or trophy just for participating, sending a message that all you need to do to be a winner, is show up.  Now, the science behind it all is simple, trophies act as motivators for kids, but constant acknowledgement does not help children succeed, but instead causes underachievement.

According to a study done at Stanford University, kids respond positively to praise and enjoy hearing that they’re smart. However, too much praise can be detrimental, causing kids to crumble at their first experience with failure. Kids often become hung up on their failures and the fixation on their mistakes is often demoralizing. The study found that more kids would rather cheat than fail again.

So what is the point of giving a trophy if it stands for nothing? Even the children receiving the awards are aware of the lack of credibility behind them. In reference to an article in the New York Times, by the age of 4 or 5 children are capable of determining who is the best and who struggles. The kids who aren’t as good either don’t try, or they just give up. They adapt a “what’s the point” attitude, considering they’ll get a trophy anyway. On the flip side, the children who are good feel cheated when they receive the same award as everyone else. They too tend to give up.

If everyone gets the same award, why bother trying to improve? What’s the point of getting better if there are never any real obstacles to overcome? When I was growing up, there were three, maybe four awards given out at the end of a sports season. Those who deserved recognition received one of those four awards, and those who didn’t were informed of what they could improve on. That’s how it went.

Now, it is understood that all kids develop and learn differently, and we must consider how we praise or punish kids depending on their intellectual and emotional development. However, when it comes to trophies and awards, every child must be treated the same. The argument that every kid should get a trophy because everyone is a winner is severely ill advised. Today, the trophy at the end of the season is more anticipated than actually participating.

The idea that everyone is a winner has seriously affected our society as a whole. Those who have grown up receiving countless awards don’t see the need in going the extra mile on their work, and most people believe that just showing up to the office is the key to advancing in the work place.

Life can be difficult, and more often than not you’re probably going to lose at things, even if you’re good at them. The idea is to use that failure as fuel, and to keep going. That’s the message that we should be sending to children today. Instead of glorifying their failures with a meaningless trophy, the focus should be on helping kids develop over time, and stressing that it is progression that is important, not a shiny piece of plastic.

*This article was originally published in The Voice.