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When children have accomplishments or hit milestones, they often have the opportunity to be celebrated for their successes in so many ways. Awards are given for everything from winning the championship soccer game to simply participating.

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The idea is meant to give children motivation to reach certain goals, while simultaneously encouraging them to do their best. However, some awards can be a bit controversial.

Remember the “Perfect Attendance” award at your school’s end-of-the-year ceremony? The kids who received this were such a select group, praised like olympic champions. The award is surely well-intentioned, giving children a goal to be present and take school seriously.

But, when one mother’s child was offered a “Perfect Attendance” award, rather than celebrating his success, she asked him to turn it down.

In a post on her blog, the U.K. mom and author Rachel Wright discussed why she would decline such an award, and while it might seem strange at first, her points are certainly eye-opening. One of her biggest issues with the award is that sometimes children cannot attend school due to unforeseen circumstances such as when they fall ill, whether it’s with a cold or something much more serious. As a result, a “Perfect Attendance” award seems entirely unfair.

She said:

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In this family you are not shamed for ill health, vulnerability or weakness. In this house you are not encouraged to spread germs when you are not well. In this house we look after ourselves and the weakest amongst us.

Can you imagine a work place that at the end of each week marked out all the people who hadn’t been sick? Where all the departments with the least number of people off were rewarded — in front of everyone else? It happens in schools all the time.

Can you imagine what kind of atmosphere that would create with people who had days off because of bereavement, mental health problem or chronic conditions? What on earth are we teaching our kids about value and worth? What are we teaching them about looking out for each other and looking after the sick or disabled in our community?”
Wright goes on: Most school-aged kids have very little control over whether they get to school.

Photo by Rachel Wright

Wright reiterates the fact that children’s attendance ultimately isn’t always up to them. For instance, if there’s bad weather like snow or rain, it’s a lot easier for a child to get to school in their parents 4-wheel-drive SUV as oppose to the public bus. There are also kids with health problems and chronic illnesses.

“He had no control over his attendance,” Wright wrote. “I took him to school and it would have been my decision to keep him off. I should get the reward (or not) for his attendance.”

The viral blog post resonated with many parents sharing Wright’s feelings regarding the unnecessary and unfair award.

“The worst time was in primary school when [my daughter] repeatedly ‘lost’ her class the class award, and was bullied because of it,” wrote one mom.

“In a work place, this would never be acceptable, but we allow this to … happen for our children,” added another person.

Wright’s post relates to all school children, parents, and people in general, encouraging us to be okay with taking a day off. People shouldn’t be spreading germs in order to win an award. People shouldn’t let their mental health suffer for an award. People shouldn’t trek through unsafe weather conditions for an award. Sometimes, you just need a day off, and that’s perfectly fine.


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