Awards and Accolades.

I’m finding it very hard to believe that we’re near the end of August.  Next month we’re in the -ber months.  Here in the Southern Hemisphere we’re near the end of the third term of a four school term year….weird to think that schools right across America are starting up again after their long summer break.

As we roll into the fourth term and all that ‘fun’ end of year stuff, our diaries are going to be filling up with all sorts of events; concerts, parties, shows and yes, prizegivings/ awards nights.

I’m sure that the people reading this post all have very set opinions on awards and prizes for kids.  They are a funny old thing indeed.  This is our first year at this particular school we’re at now – so I’m not sure of how this goes and what the deal is…..I’m not sure what ‘things’ are noticed and rewarded, but I do know what I’d like to see happen, and I do know what I’d love to see rewarded.

Students who do well academically, and behaviourally – they are easy to notice.  Easy to pinpoint.  And of course as parents we want our kids to be achieving, and there’s a certain amount of pride that comes along when they are seen to be ‘achieving’ too.  Yes I’m a parent who does proclaim on all forms of social media when my kids do well.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I did this.  But.  And here’s the thing, I think it is important to proclaim all things amazing about our kids.  Get that?  All things amazing.  And therein lies the massive gap between what is sometimes celebrated in schools and what I think needs to be remembered more.

A bright kid who is self-motivated will go far in this world.  A child who gains top marks across all or most subject areas is more likely to go on to gain a higher education.  And this is good.  And this is necessary.  But lets not forget character.  Let’s not forget the qualities that will take a child into adulthood and give him or her the skills needed to be an excellent employee.  A compassionate co-worker.  A caring member of society.

I just so believe that what is in a child’s heart is so much more important than achievements and accolades.  And these character traits aren’t always recognised in this competitive world we live in.

Some schools do have ‘character’ awards, and that’s great, but I believe this is something that should be expected of any and every child.  And not just one picked out of a class of 30.  So how can we nurture this in our children?  How can we as parents make this expectation known?  Is this just another example of me and my ‘pie in the sky’ ideas?  I dunno.  But I do know two things…..

One – we have to model kindness.  We have to model speaking kindly of others. And to others. We have to model actively reaching out to others and showing concern.  All the things we desire of our children – how can they know these things, if we’re not illustrating them ourselves?  Not any easy gig huh, this parenting thing.

And two – I was taught this at Teachers’ College and can see it as being appropriate in any situation with kids, we need to ‘catch them being good’.  For those times when my kids surprise me and respond positively to tricky situations, I need to thank them.  For the kind gestures they make, I need to recognise them.  For the thoughtfulness I see them show – I need to point out that this was seen and appreciated.  This ‘catch them being good’ business – it works wonders, I know I need to do more of it.

As we enter the -ber months and when you find yourself sitting in numerous special assemblies and prizegivings, please can I urge you to remember this…… You may clap loudly when your kid’s name is called out and they walk onto that stage – and that’s wonderful.  Nice one.  You post that pic and status on Facebook.  Honour should be given when honour is due.  Some kids do work jolly hard.  But if your child’s name is not called out – and they sit in their chair the whole evening – and you find yourself clapping for lots of their classmates – don’t think any less of your child and their abilities.  What’s inside of them – what’s growing in their attitudes to others and in their general countenance, is so much more important than what any award will indicate.  And I really do think we need to remember this.  In this achievement driven society perhaps now is the time that we as parents can stand up and really encourage kindness, gentleness, self-control.  We can be the ones handing out ‘verbal medals’.  And who knows – these ‘verbal medals’ could help create a generation of even more amazing young people than we could ever hope for.

  Do you have anything to add?  Any personal views on this topic you’d like to share?  Feel free to leave a comment.