Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison, 37, has stirred up controversy by returning his sons’ participation trophies received for sports.
Harrison is celebrated as a tough NFL linebacker and is well-known for his aggressive playing style. ABC News reports that Harrison’s parenting style is just as strong as he is. His Instagram post, explaining why he gave his sons’ trophies back, detailed his reasoning:
“While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy,” Harrison captioned a photo of his sons’ student-athlete trophies.
“I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best. Cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”
Harrison’s sign-off was #harrisonfamilyvalues. Those who commented on Instagram, the majority of whom were supportive of Harrison’s decision, generally agreed that kids need to know what hard work is — but not everyone agreed.
Harrison has been on a winning Super Bowl team twice, has been a Pro Bowl player five times, and he often shares photos of himself with his sons on Instagram. But, says Robyn Silverman, a child development specialist, by the look of some of the comments on his Instagram account, handling praise as it applies to children is done in many different ways.
“For some children participation is a struggle, so getting a participation trophy is important,” said Silverman. “For other children, they simply need to learn sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”
Harrison was a Kent State walk-on and went undrafted in 2002, eventually rising through NFL Europe and landing with the Steelers, where his career flourished. All of these events showed Harrison what it meant to “do better,” writes Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
As he was walking off the practice field Sunday, he was asked whether he had returned the trophies yet. He said he had as he walked through a hoard of fans.
“I appreciate what you’re teaching your sons,” one fan yelled while he signed.
Jim Vance, a veteran NBC news anchor, told Jason Pugh that Harrison’s decision was a response to an action that amounted to “child abuse.” During a newscast, writes Des Bieler for The Washington Post, Pugh disagreed with Harrison’s actions because of the children’s ages.
Vance took it further:
“It’s child abuse to give a kid a trophy that he has not earned. If a parent’s responsibility is to teach a kid how to deal with the real world, then that is child abuse. Because that’s not the real world.”
Pugh tried to debate the issue by saying that he had received a participation trophy and he had turned out alright, but Vance did not back down. Wendy Reiger, another anchor on the program, took Vance’s side.
“He doesn’t want them to feel entitled, like everyone owes them something,” she said.
Beiler writes that the exchange made for great television, but noted that Pugh seemed “taken aback” by Vance’s position.