It’s Award Season.
It’s invitation season. Graduations, commencements, and parties.
It’s award season. Scholarships, college acceptance, promotions. Sports teams and students of the year.
It’s senior picture and prom season.
All of these events are exciting and worthy of celebration. The awards are hard-won and much deserved. I applaud the recipients and appreciate their moments to shine.
It’s just that, as a mom I see there are other awards missing. Really important ones.
The Missing Awards.
There should be an award for the kids who are brave enough to get up and go to school the next day, when the day before they were bullied, or spent the day in the principal’s office, or got an F on a test.
There should be an award for the kids who graduate from high school while juggling school work, caring for siblings, and working a fast food job to help support a family struggling to make ends meet.
There should be an award for the kids who go to therapy to talk about their problems. Lots of adults are too chicken to go.
There should be an award for the kids who have moved 10 times during their academic career due to a parent’s job, and each time started over in a new school.
There should be an award for the kids who have coped with surgeries, allergies, medications, conditions, tests, procedures, doctors’ appointments, measured diets, hospitals, braced limbs, and side effects as part of their normal.
There should be an award for the kids who have survived hunger, sleepless nights, screaming, beatings, sexual advances, bruises, dad hitting mom, and fear, and fear, and fear.
There should be an award for the kids who try so incredibly, fantastically hard to get right with 1,000 tries what other kids master with ease — zippers, math facts, the alphabet, behavior in the lunch room, geometry, how to make eye contact, ways to keep a friend.
There should be an award for the kids who scroll through Facebook on prom night looking at pictures, pretending they don’t care that they aren’t attending.
There should be an award for the kids who attend prom looking gorgeous, while secretly feeling insecure and ugly.
There should be an award for the teachers who teach the kids who don’t get the awards, who see beyond grades, numbers, and tests, who hold kids accountable that need it so desperately, and who give beyond what they knew was possible.
There should be an award for the parents who love the kids that don’t get the awards, parents who open the invitations, and sit through the award ceremonies of other kids, as on the inside their hearts cry, “My child, too! If only you could really see my child too,” while on the outside they nod, clap, and join with voices to politely say, “Congratulations! Very well done.”
There should be an award.
If you enjoyed this post, please also check out these links: For the Mom at the Slide: When Parenting is Frightening Hard, “Mom, Do I Have Special Needs?”, This Morning Was Ugly: Parenting Children with Emotional Issues, How to Help a Mom When Her Child is Raging in Public, One Momentous Lesson for Whatever Battle You are Fighting and our Resources for Special Needs Parents page.
FREE Parenting Hacks!
*FREE Smart Parenting Hacks Printables
*10 Printables: House Rules, Lunch Box Notes, Chores, Family Technology Agreement, Clean Eating for Kids.
*Calmer Kids = Happier You!
I’m here crying my eyes out because me and my son felt really bad. what it was supposed to be a nice evening, it became in a night full of tears and I asked myself what did I do wrong? and thinking that I failed my son. feeling crazy because I shouldn’t be putting too much attention to it, but my son cares. I care for him. I wish they would let me know that he wasn’t going to receive nothing so we wouldn’t go instead.
HUGS. I’m so sorry for you and your son. Thinking of you.
Beautifully written. People who have no experience with special needs kids have no idea, thus the ignorant comments. Just because a disability is invisible to the naked eye, doesn’t make it less debilitating.
I’m not sure what ignorant comments you are referring to as I’ve read through all of them and didn’t see any. The only I can find that you must find ignorant are those of others who don’t agree with giving awards to every student. I agree with those posters. I also agree that this article was beautifully written. However, nowhere in this article does it say that it is solely referring to special needs students. I’m all for giving special needs students, as an uncle to a special need student myself, an award if deserved. I also agree that not every disability is visible to the eye. However, what kind of example are you setting for calling another’s opinions ignorant because their view differs from yours? At least the author has responded with grace to those who have differing viewpoints, instead of calling them ignorant.
I love this so much. I have one of those kids who is so very bright and intelligent, but not in the ways that are traditionally recognized. She is not a great student and not because she doesn’t try hard enough. She has OCD and anxiety along with sensory processing disorder and sometimes just getting through each day is an accomplishment. Her standardized test scores are never going to be stellar. She is a great singer and a gifted musician who writes music and plays piano by ear, but there is always going to be someone else who is better at those things than she is. I’m trying to teach her to find her worth in the value she has in the eyes of her Father above, and not in the accolades (or lack of them!) of the people around her. Bless her heart, sometimes she just wants someone to choose her or to be SEEN and recognized, and it just doesn’t happen.
Thanks for sharing, Kim. Thinking of you and your daughter with her struggles. It sounds like she has some special talents!
I completely understand what you are saying. My son is going through the same thing (he has sensory processing disorder and anxiety as well). He doesn’t necessarily need to win physical ‘awards’, but some positive attention at school for what he has accomplished goes a long way for him.While others may see him as not trying hard enough, he does nothing BUT try…he just wants to feel like he fits in with everyone else and sometimes doesn’t understand why he doesn’t get the ‘awards’ or credit for working so hard. As you said, even getting through a typical school day is a big achievement many days. Some teachers do not realize that the clock ticking, cafeteria noises and smells and even another student lightly tapping a pencil can be like an alarm going off inside of him and he has to still pay attention and keep up with the work going on in the classroom. Let alone, wearing the right pair of pants that don’t itch, making sure that it is the correct shirt that fits him comfortable and especially that his socks and shoes feel ok before going to school…. We have also talked about that even if others do not notice or give credit, he and our family know how hard he works and I make sure to tell him how proud we are of him each day.
Rick Willis says
“There should be an award for the kids who are brave enough to get up and go to school the next day, when the day before they were bullied, or spent the day in the principal’s office, or got an F on a test.” These are not award level events. If your expectations for your own child are so low that you’re surprised they even get out of bed after adversity then that is your fault, not theirs. Do children in those situations deserve extra encouragement from family and friends? Sure. Do they deserve public recognition for getting out of bed? Nope.
“There should be an award for the kids who go to therapy to talk about their problems. Lots of adults are too chicken to go.” But isn’t therapy, in this day and age, considered fairly normal and healthy? Why on earth are we talking about giving awards for activities that we’re trying to normalize? And what do adults being chicken have to do with giving awards to kids? Are you projecting?
“There should be an award for the kids who have coped with surgeries, allergies, medications, conditions, tests, procedures, doctors’ appointments, measured diets, hospitals, braced limbs, and side effects as part of their normal.” You’ve just included nearly every kid in this giant group. It’s funny, in your previous response you mention that you aren’t the kind of person to give every kid an award for just showing up, but over the course of your article that’s exactly what you advocate when we look at the totality.
You’re misusing language to try and blur the difference between encouragement and awards. Every child deserves encouragement and support; a loving family where their identity is based on who they are as a unique person and not on society’s pressures and judgements. It is a shame many kids don’t get this but handing out “awards” willy-nilly will not fix this and we all know it.
Awards are to help us recognize excellent and high achievement. Almost nothing in your list is advocating for that and it’s very much a symptom of today’s culture. I was a high achiever, in a school with lots of high achievers. When others beat me out for grades and awards it showed me that, even though I was smart, I had a lot of room to improve. It taught me to not think too highly of myself because there are plenty of smart folks around, even smarter than me. It pushed me to make more of myself because I saw others doing the same. This talk of awards for mundane things is silly and brings us all down as a society.
I award you nothing and I encourage you to think through your ideas a little more thoroughly in the future.
Yes, exactly! I completely agree! The author repeatedly stated she doesn’t believe in giving awards just to be “giving awards”, but that’s exactly what she’s advocating in this article. If you want an award, work hard. If your kid missed out, encourage them to do better, not give them an award because they got their feelings hurt.
Thanks for your insights, Rick. I appreciate your taking the time to comment and share a different perspective.
It appears to me that you’re taking her post too literally and thereby missing the point. She’s not stating that you should literally hand out awards to kids for going to therapy. She’s trying to state that awards assemblies that only reward achievement disregard the very substantial effort some of our students put forth. If you really want to encourage excellence, then there are a ton of research studies that support the benefit of rewarding effort in contrast to simply rewarding ability level. Ultimately doing so is the disservice to the bright kids as well, because they have to put forth so little effort to get an A that they don’t learn the lesson that in life, your effort is just as important if not more so to success. She is not advocating for participation trophies but rather for recognition of character and hard work.
Thanks for your comment, Angela! You got to the heart of what I was trying to convey.
I couldn’t disagree more. This is exactly what’s wrong with the current generation. Instead of encouraging them to work harder and pushing them to understand that you don’t get rewarded for participating which usually doesn’t result from best efforts, but from giving it your all, we’re allowing the current generation to feel entitled to an award for merely showing up to school because they got out of bed. It’s a struggle for everyone at some point, but that’s a part of life. You don’t get a medal or trophy for maturing.
Hi Kara, I understand your comment, Kara. I’m not one to think every kid should get a trophy just for showing up. My kids do chores and work hard. Yet I also think it’s okay for all of us to see a new perspective, which is the point of this article. I have grown so much as a person since becoming a parent of children with special needs. I’ve learned more grace and compassion. I’ve learned there is a lot more gray and to see the world as not as black and white as I used to think. Thanks for sharing your perspective and for your comment.
That’s wonderful that your children do chores, bravo to you. However, that doesn’t entitle them (or you) to an award. You have said numerous times now that you don’t believe every kid should get a trophy for showing up, yet the more you write, the more you contradict yourself. I’m sorry that life hasn’t went the way you planned and is maybe a little more challenging than you at first anticipated it would be. But that’s life. Life doesn’t play by our rules, we play by the hand the Lord deals us knowing He will carry us through if we have faith in Him. As a teacher, I am extremely compassionate to my students in circumstances you have described; I have plenty of them and treat them as if they are my own children. However, one thing I can assure you of is that these students do not want recognition and “awards” for the circumstances you have mentioned. All that does it bring them embarrassment. Typically when a parent complains that their child didn’t get an award and “deserved” one, it’s the parent who wants the recognition, not the student. So yes, I have seen the world through the shades of gray and have met many parents like you. Also, wanting to give everyone an award for everything doesn’t mean that you have grace and are compassionate, it means that you are clueless and attention-seeking. Stop worrying about why other kids didn’t receive awards at the awards ceremony, and focus on your own children. If you want your children to receive one that badly, encourage them to work harder, and maybe help them with their homework instead of writing a blog post about how they just didn’t make the cut.
Thanks for sharing a different perspective, Kara, and especially your insights as a teacher. I’m sure you are a very caring and compassionate teacher. You are right that life doesn’t play by our rules, and that God carries us through as we have faith in Him.
I respect your opinion, especially as a teacher. I would like to add that some parents are not necessarily talking about a physical ‘award’ or ‘reward’. Some children are quieter/shy or have troubles that are not physically seen. These children would just like to feel included and given some positive attention for all that they do accomplish. It may not be the highest score or perfect attendance or neatest writing, but many children are giving it their very effort. So, I was looking at this as not so much of actual awards (so, not to take away from the students who actually earned awards at graduation, recognition nights, etc…), but just giving credit to the children who try their hardest with what they can do. You are right, many would feel embarrassed or singled out if they made a special title for an award or just gave out awards to everyone.They would just like to feel like they belong and deserve at least that much. Sometimes it could just be a quiet recognition directly from the teacher to the student. A student hearing that a teacher is proud of them or that he/she recognizes how hard that child works each day would go a long way. Do not underestimate the power of positive words—it does not need to be attention seeking or bragging rights, it is truly to make each child feel special and recognized.
Thanks for your thoughts C, I completely agree with you! we teachers do need to be conscientious of those in our classes who are giving it their all and just want to feel included, or are going through situations unimaginable to us and just need some encouragement. I do my best daily to encourage each and every one of my students, but it is always a nice reminder that students are appreciative of the encouragement we offer. I will make it my goal to step up my game in the upcoming days, being even more encouraging to my students and supportive. It is my number one goal to always make sure my students know I am there for them if they need anything, and to educate second. Students who are loved come to school for an education. Students who aren’t come to school to be loved. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂
Thank you for the thoughtful response. Your students are so very lucky to have such an encouraging and compassionate teacher!! Thank you and God bless you for all you do. I pray that my son gets a teacher that has the same dedication and empathy as you.
Mary Quillin says
Thank you for the honesty and vulnerability in this article. My kids are wonderfully ordinary in the “awards” sense. I never want to take away from the hard work that many students do in order to achieve the awards decided on, but YES there is the very hard work that do not get the spotlight and should. The bravery. The courage. The character. The underdogs who plow through. Thank you for writing! I just found this blog and look forward to continuing to follow.. 🙂
Mary, thank you so much for sharing your heart. I look forward to connecting with you in the future!
Powerful message…brought tears to my eyes. My son struggles with sensory processing disorder and I just wish that he could be given the credit he deserves for just getting through each school day. You said it perfectly. Nobody knows the struggles that some children are facing because on the outside they look just like the other students- when on the inside they are just trying to feel like they belong.
Thanks for sharing! I know, it’s so tough when we see our children struggle and others seem to breeze through with ease. It’s extra challenging when those disabilities are hidden. Your son is blessed to have you!
Christa Sterken says
Sara this is really beautiful and important. Thanks for sharing!
Jen Rogowski says
I couldn’t agree more. I brought this up to the principal. Why do the same kids get the good child award year after year? Makes the other kids feel bad. It’s barbaric and cruel.
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
Thanks for sharing your insights, Jen!
Julie Christine says
I recently sat through award after award after award (YAWN) at my son’s grade 8 grad. Although he recieved an award I don’t feel there should be ANY awards at a grade 8 graduation. I hate that so many kids are singled out and lauded for acheivement while others sit there getting nothing, when they’re at an age where so many of them are struggling with self esteem, fitting in etc. Just give them that diploma, tell them they’re ALL special and let them aim for awards/recognition later in life, at the end of high school and/or in university, when they’re emotionally more mature. and when not getting an award won’t affect them so much.
I’ve just never believed in awards for elementary school grads, I hate the whole idea!
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
Jen Rogowski says
They start in that young. Talk about ruining some kids self esteem.
Corinne Colbert says
This brought tears to my eyes. I was one of the kids who got tons of awards, for whom things came easily; now I have one of those kids who will never receive one, who struggles with a learning disability and emotional isuues. Awards season and report cards tear me to pieces. I’m happy for my friends’ kids, but at the same time, I want to scream. Thank you for articulating so well what I’ve been feeling these past weeks.
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
Hugs, friend. I can relate to every word of your comment.
Parrie R says
On point as a teacher and a parent who is learning to deal with a child who struggles in class and home
You know, if we all just celebrated each other on a regular basis, we’d all feel so much better about life! So today, I’m celebrating YOU, Sara! Congratulations for maintaining your weight loss for ten years! That’s an incredible milestone! I’m standing up and applauding you right now, because I know how much work that takes and the life-changes a person has to make. I can also see how your determination to make changes has opened up your life for so many more blessings–like children of the heart and helping other women through their struggles. Hip, hip, hooray for Sara!
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
Awe, thank you, dear friend! What a sweet comment! You totally made my day. Thank you!!!
Ruth G says
Yes, yes, and yes! Also, awarding those who treat others with respect would be great! My son had to sit while a child who has bullied him for a very long time received a couple of awards for volunteer service while he received nothing because he is on the autism spectrum and has just gotten to the point of being able to focus on academics because he’s figured out how to blow off those who bully him. He didn’t want to add to much to his plate this year since mastering emotional control is new to him so he didn’t join up with the volunteers and probably didn’t want to be with that bully any more than he absolutely had to. I give my son a lot of credit for joking at the end of the ceremony about how he should have gotten the “no award award”. I love him for who he is and who he has the potential to be and know that there will be many people in his future who will appreciate his respectful nature and thoughtfulness. I don’t think the bully will have the same experience.
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
Ruth, thanks for sharing. I could really relate to your comment! One of my kiddos is really working on emotional control and he has made some HUGE strides in the last few weeks. This is really, really big deal stuff. It brings tears to my eyes just typing this! Other people would never “see” it because it’s stuff kids his age should be able to do anyway, but for him this is such huge progress and so very, very hard. I’m so proud of him!
I shared this to my son’s school fb page and I was asked to remove it. Maybe it’s time I removed my sen son from their school!
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
Oh my goodness, really?! I’m so surprised!
Jen Rogowski says
I’m not. It’s calling them out on favoritism and a lack of concern for all students.
Jen Rogowski says
I did. I went to private and they don’t do this during school hours. I hope you didn’t remove it.
Brittany @ EquippingGodlyWomen says
While I don’t think every kid needs or should expect an award–you’re right. If we are going to reward things–it should be the things that matter.
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
Brittany, I do understand what you mean that not everything deserves an award. I’m not one of those moms who thinks every kid on the soccer team should get an award, win or lose. My reason for writing this is that I’ve seen my kids work SO hard for things that other kids pick up with ease. There are days I feel they deserve a medal for just getting up and going to school every day.
Joy Smith says
Beautiful writing, I could not agree more. I remember being shocked when my son came home from High School one day and told me that school was so sad. When I asked him why, he said “Mom, you should know, you are a realtor”. It turned out that so many kids parents were losing their home and it was tearing families apart. Kids were coming to school crying about hearing their parents fighting and terrified because they were losing their homes and maybe their families. It was eye opening to me…about just how the downfall of the housing economy was affecting society, and it was terribly sad. The worse part was, that the kids didn’t seem to feel that they could share their fears with their parents, so they were bottling it up and crying at school. Heartbreaking. Those kids deserved awards just for getting up and going to school despite all they were going through.
Laurie Flanigan says
Thank you for writing and sharing this post. It made me think of these Bible verses:
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 English Standard Version (ESV)
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 English Standard Version (ESV)
Sara @ The Holy Mess says
What a fantastic post, Sara!
A quick scenario… My 4th grade son did not make Honor Roll for this year’s first trimester. He missed it by a fraction, but this was irrelevant. He worked hard. Very hard. He was embarrassed to know that he would not be called up – acknowledged – along with his friends. At last minute, I decided to attend the award ceremony anyway. No, not to feel included with fellow parents and not in any form of protest for my son not making the cut. I attended to support him and show him how proud I was of his hard work. He was certainly happy that I attended. At dismissal that afternoon, he sat in the car with watery eyes…he told me that he still felt left out especially after trying so hard. After a long pep talk and my own award for my son, he felt better again. He felt validated.
This post brought me back to that day. Although awards like Honor Roll are obviously important, it’s also important to recognize many other things in people – especially children. Many children are so misunderstood. Thank you for this lovely post as it really hit home. I can’t wait to delve into others since I am a new follower. 🙂
Sara Borgstede says
Thanks so much for your comment! What a beautiful thing you did for your son that day! I do think it’s really important for us as parents to stand with our children in their disappointments. I also think not every child has to be the “winner” all the time. I’m not trying to say we have to have soccer games where every child gets a trophy, all the time…if that makes sense. That will be a different post for another time. Ha. 🙂
Jen Rogowski says
I think it’s not appropriate to give awards during class time. One reason I left public school. All the kids who don’t get awards. It’s cruel
V.L. Jennings says
I had a similar issue this year. Son has ALWAYS made superintendents honor roll- always made straight A’s. This year he was in major pain (that he HID!) due to his chest sinking in (pectus excavatum). He had major chest surgery to fix it and was out of school for a month. Because of that his grades fell to B’s. They had told him he had won an award, and invited me to attend. The ceremony went through and he won nothing- completely crushing him.
I had to have a pep talk with him out in the car to let him know that I was still proud of him for doing as well a he did in school even through all of his medical issues and that “I” felt he had done his absolute best and that was all that mattered to me.