I was going through an old box of my kid’s school papers the other day, and found an award that was given to my daughter. When my daughter was in second grade, Awards Day was far different from those of my childhood. Why? Every child in my daughter’s class received an award that day. Every one. What award did my daughter get? “Kindest to Animals”. I’m not kidding.
By the next school year, someone had seen the error in this approach, and only academic awards were given. At the end of that ceremony, the principal stood, and addressing the students said, “If you did not receive and award today, let that encourage you to strive harder so that next awards day I can give you an award, too.” The kids did find encouragement in her words, and the determination was visible on many of their faces.
I thought back to an Awards Day from my own youth. As each academic award was called out, it was awarded to the same kid. Over and over this kid got up from his seat to receive his award. I remembered thinking, “Wow. Eric is really smart. He studies a lot, and he deserves every one of those awards.” By the time he went up to receive his final award (seven in all), we students were on our feet to give him a standing ovation that he, and only he, deserved. We all felt inspired by Eric to study harder.
When my son was younger, he played one season of little league baseball. Let’s just say that in that one season we discovered that baseball was not his calling, but at the season’s end he got a trophy along with every other kid on the team. He got that trophy for showing up, rather than for any skill or talent he brought to the team. It served only as proof that he had attempted to play a season of baseball. I’m not sure where that trophy is today.
These days we do so many things to try to make our kids feel better about themselves. Whether it’s a contrived award or a trophy awarded for participation, we fail to see the lack of value these things really offer. Any value added is only temporary, and quickly fades.
A friend of mine recently told me that her son tried out for, and didn’t make the basketball team at school. She told me he really wasn’t ready for the team, that he needed some more practice and instruction. She told me that not making the team didn’t bother her son. Instead, what bothered her son was that another kid had rudely criticized her son’s ability to play the sport.
Then my friend did something so important. She talked to her son about where he should find his worth. She told her son that he is to find his worth in Christ, rather than in the words or deeds of another person.
What a great lesson for a parent to teach her child. As parents, we should be telling our children that their worth is not found in what they do, say, produce, present or receive. It is found only in Christ. That Christ found them so valuable that He gave His very life to save theirs for all eternity. What in this world could make us more valuable than that?
We should never teach children that their worth is found in how well they do in school, in sports, or in any other arena of life. We should praise them when they succeed, encourage them when they fail, and teach them whether in success or in failure, as followers of Jesus, their position in Christ is secure. They need to know they are loved with a wild and unfathomable love by the very Creator of the universe.
If we don’t do that, then they will likely grow to be adults who find their value in what size house they live in, what cars they drive, what clothes they wear, what job they hold, or any number of other rulers by which people measure each other and themselves.
If we teach this lesson well, they will find that when their egos are bruised by criticism or failure, they can find their true worth in the only One who really is worthy.