How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes

Right!? I literally threw mine out in shame. Who wants a reminder of failure!? It’s literally just something for people to make fun of you for if they see it. Better to forget about it and try again next time. I can see how some people might try to think otherwise and maybe some people just like souvenirs in general, but… like, other kids exist. Parents exist. You’d have to be in one hell of a bubble not to pick up on that at all and just be super-proud of “winning” your participation trophy.

People have all these ideas about how kids think and I don’t know that they’ve ever even, like, asked a freaking kid about it.


I will point out here that often it takes enormous courage on the part of the kid to even show up at all, especially if they are an outcast or are being bullied by the others.

A little acknowledgment that the kid even is there can be just the confidence boost needed to encourage them.


To a degree, my kid isn’t naturally competitive in a healthy way (she’s still a bad sport and isn’t ready to commit time and effort to honing a particular skill) but she does have aspersions that are entirely plausible but require an ability to compete. I can’t let my kid who wants to learn about anatomy and surgery not realize that she has to be extremely good at school to get to do the things she finds inspirational from when a doctor stitched up her aunt’s hand after it was cut bad in the kitchen.

It’s this line of showering affection and love but then still expressing additional pride and everything when she accomplished a big goal for her. Her kindergarten class was a disaster and we had to push her to catch up for first grade and it was stressful for everyone, but when she suddenly could read and write and eventually outdid her classmates on a math test she got huge self confidence swells. She was extremely depressed in self-quarantine but she agreed to be perfect about mask use to go to class and has never ever missed wearing a mask to this day until she can be vaccinated. It’s just hard to be confident in your parenting, but I imagine a lot of bad parents are extremely confident in what they are doing.


There’s nothing wrong with encouraging competition. There’s also nothing wrong with discouraging competition. Depends on the child.

Competitions (such as sports) being a way to bully (other) kids and puncture their esteem is something that has been around forever. I expect that the only reason we never hear about how Plato was picked last for the pankration team is that that dialogue was lost. I also expect it isn’t going anywhere soon.

I believe that people of any generation are much like people of any other; if there are behavioral differences, they are at the margins. We see a lot more Karen behavior today than we did 30 years ago because everyone has a camera to record it, and social media to spread it. Most people are not Karens, and the small percent who are might have engaged in some comparable form of antisocial behavior in a different era.

To the extent there has been a slight shift in some of this over the generations, it might be due to the child care books parents were reading. Boomers were raised on Benjamin Spock. (Agnew called us “the Spock generation”, and blamed Spock for our rebelliousness.) Later generations were raised on T. Berry Brazelton, who continued to evolve a child-centered approach.

I’m a little concerned about the idea of basing child care principles on “science”, because that’s what people claimed to be doing pre-Spock. However, in that case the science was operant conditioning, in the sense of Skinner and Pavlov. The Spock-and-later idea that one size does not fit all has got to be healthier.


But that doesn’t have to be a function of competition. She can do well for herself, not to outshine the other guy. Being good at something doesn’t have to come at the expense of others which is what competition implies.

Yes! But it’s not a competition! :wink:


I’m not sure about this. When our daughter was in high school we required she do some sort of after school activity. She chose cross country running. She did not want to do it at first but we were firm about her doing something. There were six girls on the school team, they all sucked, they knew it and embraced it. We went to every one of their meets, most of the time I drove the entire team. We were usually the last parents waiting for our girls.

Did they get participation trophies from the school system? Nope. Did we tell them good job and take them out for team McDonalds or Dairy Queen? Sure did. Are they still friends going on 20 years later? Sure are.

They later all joined the track team with the same results.

In grade school we also made her choose a sport. She chose basketball, she also sucked at that but she learned an awful lot. Once again, no participation trophies but she did get our praise for stepping way out of her comfort zone and trying.

I think the participation trophies are more for that, acknowledging they tried and for many kids just showing up is a major accomplishment.

To this day my daughter still enters 5k races and still comes in almost last but she has a ball and cherishes every t-shirt and participation medal. We’ve also run a couple half marathons together and a full as a team.

We should always encourage kids to try, failing is also an accomplishment and may just build a better person. So lets acknowledge that with participation trophies.


Especially late-stage neoliberal capitalism, which insists that every competition should ideally be a zero-sum game. There are few better ways to encourage the fostering of arseholes than that winner-take-all mindset.


I’m guessing that the only people who feel really unhappy about the 5k finisher’s medal are the ones that came in fourth place.


My oldest tried AYSO soccer at age 4 and at the end of the season, they gave her a participation trophy and she looked at me and said “Why am I getting this? Our team didn’t win.”


I’ve run many races for many years and up until a couple years ago I always placed in my age group. It never bothered me when they gave finisher medals to everyone who participates.

I don’t display finisher medals that I receive unless it’s a commemorative medal like from the Detroit International Half or Full. Anyone that completes a run like that deserves a finisher medal. As a matter of fact I think anyone that runs any race deserves a medal. I think it’s great when average people get up of the sofa and participate.


How does a four year old already know about how trophies work and how did you answer?

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How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes:

  1. Study the parenting strategies Ronald Ernest Paul. Pay close attention to everything bearing on the childhood of Rand Paul.
  2. Meditate deeply. The small hours of the morning are perfect for this, and you’ll see plenty of them when your kid is teething or colicky or just plain ornery.
  3. When parenting questions arise, ask yourself what Ron Paul would do, then do the exact opposite.
  4. Return to step 3, rinse and repeat. Enjoy your awesome kid.

I was responding to @Mindysan33’s post:

And there’s your answer!


I had a chat about this after this discussion about how a competitive personality might be channeled better. I think one can frame competition as good when it’s collaborative and against a common opponent. I’m thinking something like climate change as the “thing to beat”. Not sure exactly how to achieve that, but have a few ideas…


Parkrun is a great example how competitiveness isn’t needed to define achievement, even in a traditionally competitive environment. What they’ve done is magnificent and virtually everyone is competing against themselves and trying to improve in their own performances, or in a smallish set of similar individuals in a positive way. The culture is brilliant.

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Hell yes! And if you are deeply unhappy, don’t have kids on the theory that raising them will make you happy. Chronic depression seems to have a genetic component. Trying to raise kids that have inherited your disposition to depression is not likely to improve your mood.

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My three kids (oldest in college) were arguing good-naturedly with each other about which one was “the unplanned accident”.

I told them we wouldn’t be able to tell until they were 30.


I can’t speak for other people’s own experiences but personally i kind of liked getting “participation trophies” but they were never labeled as such in Venezuela where i grew up. They were meant to commemorate a student having been present to an event and in the moment as a student they didn’t mean a whole lot to me but as i made my way from elementary to high school i did appreciate looking at all the medals and ribbons that i had accumulated along with all the medals that i had actually won (and i say this as a really shy introverted person that was riddled with anxiety, that was very average and was not great at competition. “I did all these cool things in school and now i get to remember them”)

I feel like in the US they’re looked at like a slap in the face or something to be ridiculed but that is a cultural trapping that is specific to this country. I never once have heard a colleague from Venezuela talk about the medals as being something negative, plus if you don’t like them throw them away or turn them down.

Edit: Also in our household we were never super precious about the medals, we pooled them all together between us 3 siblings and my dad who was also very sporty and taught karate. Some day we might have to go over all the medals and figure out what medal goes to who but really i don’t mind that much. They’re just interesting mementos from a bygone area i think fondly of.


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