Published on October 29, 2018

As the end of the year approaches and with it the season of awards ceremonies, it’s useful to consider how to respond when your child doesn’t receive a prize.

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life and learning to cope productively is an important skill to have for a happy life.

Here’s some tips about how parents can help:

Talk about what matters.

The best lesson is to enjoy learning and activities for themselves, not for prizes and accolades. Some students desperately want always to be the best. Ask your child, “What does the prize really mean to you?” If it is recognition for work well done, help them see what a good year they have had and how much they have accomplished. It’s their own sense of satisfaction that really matters.


Don’t blame the school. 

Those who give prizes are usually keenly aware of their responsibility and are thoughtful and conscientious in their decisions. Decisions are made in good faith.


Take the long view.

Short of a Nobel, most prizes don’t really have a long-term effect on anyone’s life. After they are given, they have a short shelf life and quickly decline in importance. How many adults can truly point to a childhood prize making a deep impact on their future?


Accept that feelings provide us with choices.

Children can focus on their own unhappiness or be happy for their classmate. Bad feelings fade quickly.


Learn to find joy in the success of other people.

Disappointment provides an opportunity to take joy in someone else’s success. That’s difficult but the ability to enjoy another’s good fortune is part of an emotionally mature life.


Focus on happy memories. 

If a child cares enough about an activity to be disappointed by not winning a prize, that activity has been important. Celebrate the year’s work as a family. By focusing on the happy memories, the lessons learned, the personal growth and skills developed and the relationships cultivated, parents can help lessen the very real sting of feeling passed over. Acknowledge their disappointment and help your child stay focused on what is most valuable. That way, you help them develop resilience and emotional maturity.


Reference: From the Principal’s Digest Newsletter Volume 24, Number 51 – acknowledgement Braden Bell.