The Case for Participation Awards

Have you ever typed “Participation Award” in your Google search bar?

No?

Well, I have, and friends, the results are not pretty.

The third result down is the headline of an article from Entrepreneur magazine: “There Are No Participation Awards in the Real World.”

I am here today to make the case for participation awards. I say, there are participation awards in the real world. Nowhere is this truer than in the intensive care that goes into parenting, which is maybe why we don’t value participation awards. Anybody can participate, right?

In her book “Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family,” Anne-Marie Slaughter shares the statement of an economics major at Princeton University:

. . . it’s unlikely a janitor will get as much social respect as a computer scientist, because many people can be janitors. . . but few  can be good computer scientists.

But when you’re a janitor (which really, is probably my biggest role as a mom) showing up is huge. Anybody can handle a poop explosion. But is just anybody willing to do that? Is just anyone going to show up and get the poop off the crib rails, put the baby in the baby in the bath to get the poop out of her hair, and throw all the bedding in the washer?

I can almost see you violently shaking your head no as you read this! It’s true – it’s you who is going to show up and participate in the (sometimes) literal shit-show that is parenting.

Your reward is CPS is not going to come knocking on your door when someone reports you for having a child covered in poop.

Your reward is a few minutes of your nostrils not being filled with the stench of last night’s tacos.

Your reward is a kid who, after finishing her bath acting as though she’s being exorcised, will give you a little smile (which is when you’ll notice there’s poop in her teeth too and you need to brush them) before demanding that you sing the ABC’s.

There are participation awards in the real world.

But how do we make adults who show up & get their crap done? You give a participation award to your kid!

You say, “Good job ironing your shirt! Next time turn the heat down so you don’t melt it.”

You say, “I know you worked really hard on that assignment.”

And you praise your kid for being a good eater even though you know that tomorrow that three bean salad you made is going to end up exploding all over the bed.

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