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Perfect attendance ain't what it used to be
Adventures in Parenting
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Does every kid really have to get an award? I mean, really. My husband and I marveled (actually, we squirmed in our seats, checked our watches and blew subtle signs of impatience) during a recent end-of-the-year awards ceremony for our middle son. Now, let me begin with this disclaimer: we beamed with pride and, of course, I offered a solo standing ovation when the presenter recognized our boy early in the program as Musician of the Year. Things went downhill from there. Our son and what seemed like every single second grader at the program traipsed across the stage no less than a few times each to receive a litany of accolades - with THE Perfect Attendance Award the greatest among them.

For my son, the honor came four times this past school year - that's one certificate proclaiming the feat for each quarter the students are in school. Has it gotten so bad that we have to offer such short bursts of incentives to encourage parents just to get their kids to school? Back in the day, when I was (clearing my throat) a young girl in the 70s, you made it to school every single day of the entire year to get an award or you lost out. Nowadays, you feasibly could get a certificate reflecting only about 10 weeks of actual perfect attendance.

Here's the problem with this people: storage. Yes, storage. I'm running out of places to display and/or file all these crazy, mundane certificates. But the bigger issue is the message we're sending our children that even short spurts of success will be rewarded. Oh, and what about the award our son and every other student received for being, well, good? As a general rule, aren't you supposed to exhibit good character and citizenship at school and in life, sans the certificate? Then there's the basketball league in which our son participates where every child gets equal playing time. Actually, I'm OK with this, but what's with the after-every-game-ceremony, whereby parents suffer - I mean - applaud our way through every single player on the team receiving some type of award or another?

It's no wonder a recent Newsweek article profiled what it calls today's "Generation Me" - children who grow up expecting so much output for very little input. The author cites a study revealing one-third of college students polled agreed with the statement, "If I show up to every class, I deserve at least a B" just for attending.

Folks, we've got to turn this ship around quickly, and we have to do it one parent at a time. It's imperative that we teach our kids to establish a work ethic that leads to genuine rewards. In the meantime, way to go, son, on all your illustrious awards. Next time, grab the mic and give a big shout out to your Mama and Daddy for being such inspiring human beings.

Kysa Daniels is a journalist, non-profit professional and mother of three boys. For more Adventures in Parenting and parenting tips, e-mail