No, every child should not get an award - this is why

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

There is no doubt that childhood obesity is becoming an increasing concern worldwide, and Australian experts argue that that 24.9 per cent of our children are either overweight or obese. 

So, on the face of it, any scheme that encourages physical activity in children is laudable and many people have welcomed the NSW Premier's Sporting Challenge that stipulates that every student from K to Year 2 gets a Gold certificate. 

The problem is that under the guidelines, they get the certificate irrespective of how much physical activity they do over the 10 weeks and schools have been warned against acknowledging individual effort in case it alienates or discourages poor performing students.

This "everyone wins a prize" is problematic on several counts. It seems that all they have to do is show up and they get a gold certificate saying they have exercised. What is the point of such an award when it simply becomes an expectation, how is this helping children associate effort with outcome?

Second, such an approach might be robbing children of some essential life lessons on competition and how to handle adversity. Will not losing in sport, teach children later in life to handle disappointments, like the loss of a relationship, health issues or not getting a job? It's actually good to understand how to lose and sometimes our disappointments become our strengths.

Third, might not well-meaning parents end up thinking that pushing their sons and daughters to do better is a bad thing? To settle for being just mediocre? I worry about how much kids are willing to work for something versus how much they want to be entertained.

It seems to me, that we are seeing the progressive "wuss-ification" of our young people from schools, some of which have actually banned ball games, having a best friend, somersaults and cartwheels.

The unpalatable fact is that by any objective measure, today's children have much worse mental health than their parents – who grew up in an environment where, winning and losing were all part and parcel of life!

So perhaps it's time for us all to reconsider this idea before even more damage is done.