The end of the school year means a time for celebration! Finishing yet another school year comes with a variety of emotions for children and parents alike.

I always am flooded by an oxymoron of emotions at the end of a school year; both joy and sadness in seeing my kids grow and mature, as well as an immense sense of pride for all that my boys have accomplished. At the same time, I feel frustrated with the way society recognizes achievements.

As lovely as they are, school awards acknowledge all the hard work and effort of our kids throughout the year. I can’t help but think of the kids who sit through the applause and congratulations, peer after peer, waiting for their own name to be called. What happens when it isn’t?

You see, not every child is on the honour roll.

Not every child will receive a math or science achievement. Not every child will win the best athlete plaque. Not every child will win an award.

Sure, schools keep the focus on academic achievements. But these kids are so much more than grades and test scores. Winning school awards have absolutely no bearing on our children’s worth as human beings. Every child is gifted and talented in their own, individual way.

Then there are the awards for personality – who is the nicest? Who is the funniest? Wait, what? Why are we celebrating the most outgoing child without acknowledging the brilliant yet shy introvert?  Since when it is appropriate to publicly applaud the child who always makes grand entrance instead of the one with quiet confidence?

Why did one child receive four awards and there are other kids who received none? Alienating kids is not the way to instill confidence and pride in our impressionable youth.  These types of awards send the message that the teachers value some students more than others – and not based on any academic or athletic merit.

It saddens me that some students who have worked their butts off won’t be acknowledged publicly.

The child who struggled but kept persevering.

The child who wanted to quit but muddled through.

The child who worked with a tutor all year to improve from a C to a B.

The child who was bullied incessantly and forced to switch schools.

The child who barely passed but managed to finish the year.

The child who worked through anxiety, or a learning disability, or depression.

What do our youth really need?

Not all achievements come with trophies or medals. Rather than a crooked ink-jet-printed certificate, a simple acknowledgement for all the small successes and things they do well every day would make a huge impact.

To the child who struggled to finish the school year, congrats!

To the child who finished all assignments done on time, kudos to you!

To the child who made strides in listening skills or self-regulation, amazing!

To the child who made new friends, we are proud.

For some children, these achievements aren’t a big deal; but to others, they signify jumping over hurdles.

So let’s also be proud of those kids who came home empty-handed, feeling like their accomplishments didn’t matter. Because their own achievements are enormous and don’t need an award to be celebrated.




Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

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