Is Rewarding Mediocrity Ruining Our Youth?

I will always remember a line from the movie THE INCREDIBLES. They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity!” My husband and I always laughed at this, because as the parents of three grade-school boys, we knew this to be very true.

I’m not only talking about all those graduation ceremonies for moving from the three-year-old room to the four-year-old room in daycare. I’m talking about things like getting a trophy just for participating in sports, even if you come in last place. I’m talking about that school somewhere (I can’t remember where) who decided to stop naming someone valedictorian because it makes the other kids feel bad they didn’t “win”.


I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but many kids these days grow up believing they are “entitled” to what they want. I think this is the result of all the coddling they get in the early years of their lives.

Seriously… Why work your butt off, sweating in your sports game if at the end the winner is going to get exactly the same trophy as the team that ends up in last place?

This reared its ugly head for me personally this morning.  My husband called me to let me know that the middle school had called. Middle Dude had to be taken out of homeroom because he did not make the soccer team. He was devastated.

My heart broke.

The more I thought about it, the more angry I became— not at the school or the coaches, but at all the previous schools and coaches Middle Dude has encountered.

They dropped the ball in preparing my kid for the real world.

The truth is, the real world is not all rosy. When he graduates college, chances are he will not get the “dream job” he’s been fantasizing about. If he does get a job, he will be expected to over-preform, not under preform… and if he doesn’t do his job, no one is going to pat him on the back and say: “that’s okay, we’re going to give you a raise anyway. Don’t feel bad.”

This was a big wake-up call to me. Middle Dude had no conception of the possibility of not making the team. Up until now, everything had been handed him on a silver platter.  Probably the only people who have said “no” to him were his parents, and no matter how many times we tell our kids what “the real world” is like, they always just grin and shake their heads at us…

Because the real world gives them everything they want, and celebrates their achievement of nothing.

In their minds, we, as parents, know nothing.

It makes me sad. Really sad. It is fine for Middle Dude to be upset about not making the team. I remember in high school how I felt when I didn’t get the part in the play that I wanted. BUT I ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THERE WAS A POSSIBILITY OF THE PART GOING TO SOMEONE ELSE.

It is a different day. I applaud many of the things that government and schools have come up with to protect our kids physically and emotionally. But there is such thing as over-protecting them.

The world has not changed. In fact, it is probably a much worse place than it was when I grew up. But my kids don’t believe that.

They are the generation of entitlement. And I am so afraid for them.

The real world entitles no one.

JenniFer_Eaton Sparkle__F


9 responses to “Is Rewarding Mediocrity Ruining Our Youth?

  1. Let me just say, I don’t think today’s kids are any more entitled than any generation before. In fact, if you look back to translated documents from ancient Egypt, China, or Rome, you will find the same references to the ungrateful younger generation and their terrible music and their scandalous clothes. Don’t forget that awful dance, the waltz!

    We just think they’re worse because we, right now, are having to deal with them. In your case, it’s as much a challenge for you to console your son as it is for him to process this disappointment. (Gosh, I sound all psychological!)

    I’d guess the schools and similar organizations are not trying to puff up the “losers” as much as trying to stop the “winners” from getting even more puffed up in a society that’s unhealthily obsessed with winning.

  2. I am also disheartened by the sense of entitlement I see in our youth today. It goes so far beyond everyone getting a trophy and no one being cut from the team.
    They don’t have to do homework or study because they know they will be passed to the next grade anyway. They don’t want to do work at all if they don’t see a personal benefit. Their answer when asked to do something at school, “You can’t make me.”
    I hate generalization, though, so I won’t say everyone in the up and coming generation is this way.
    My biggest fear is that they will try to change the “real world” by making it reward them for nothing. A small percentage of people will do all the work and the others will suck down their free housing and groceries.
    I have always been the mean parent. I told my boys no. I made them do chores (and didn’t pay them an allowance). My husband bought them more than I thought he should, but not to the extent that they expected a car on their 16th birthday.
    When my youngest said, “Why didn’t you take us to Hawaii with you? (This was our 25th anniversary trip last fall). I asked, “Why aren’t you going to take Dad and I on your honeymoon?”
    Oh yeah. I’m mean. Anyway, I got off track with this reply. I’m sure you were able to comfort Middle Dude and he will completely recover from this event. In fact, he will be more prepared for reality now.

  3. Did you know students who get failing marks are still pushed forward to the next grade. Nobody repeats a year anymore? Nobody fails? Really?

  4. It was pretty funny to sit through kindergarten graduation when our children were little. By the time they finished high school there were so many graduations we were sneaking out early. I wonder if the over load of applause doesn’t reflect fears of parents that what’s ahead might be bleak, and too strong a temptation to put off the reckoning. As you say though, there is no stopping harsh reality. Best wishes for your son as he learns to turn a disappointment into a strength.

  5. Although I get what you mean in this article, there is a contradiction in your statements 1/2 way in bold, and the last line.
    Because the real world gives them everything they want, and celebrates their achievement of nothing.

    The real world entitles no one.

    In bold I think you meant the Schools our kids attend … which is so true, and this is deliberate. One must take an in depth look at the evolution of the school system in the west, starting with the advent of the Prussian System …

    It is tragic, and so important that even if you can’t change their perceptions now, you are at least laying the ground work to build on as they mature, and start to think for themselves.

    • Yes, there is a contradiction between what they think at this point in their lives, and what reality is. This is exactly what I was trying to point out. Thank you for chiming in!

  6. I agree so much. The world is MUCH harder than it was fifty years ago. Sure, we have more technology, everything is cleaner, etc….but the outsourcing of work overseas has ruined the American economy. Companies rarely offer pensions anymore and Social Security will be gone by the time I’m 65. Entry-level salaries for college grads are pitiful, and that’s if you can find a job (even in tech fields! There’s basically no such thing as an “in demand” field anymore).

    This is the absolute worst generation to give an entitlement complex to. This generation needs to learn to fight and have ambition. Otherwise, they’re gonna be up a creek.