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September 15, 2015

Why I’m Not Proud of My Kids

Hal photo outside Feb2012I care not so much what I am in the opinion of others, as what I am in my own; I would be rich of myself, and not by borrowing.” (Michel Eyquem de Montaigne)

The most controversial thing I’ve ever said on TV, or anywhere for that matter, is how I don’t tell my kids I’m proud of them. I know this seems downright sacrilegious, especially for a so-called relationship expert. I mean, what else are we parents for, other than to bless our kids with such validation and approval?

I’ll tell you what we parents are for: helping our kids learn to be proud of themselves. As they grow up and go out, I do not want my kids preoccupied with whether Dad is proud of them. Yes, I’ve always told each of them I love them and think they’re great, no matter what, but that is very different than whether I’m proud of them.

Being proud of my kids means I am willing to boast about them, and about my connection to them. “That’s my baby boy!” is a cry I’ve heard numerous times in the stands when a son knocks in the game-winning run. Doesn’t come out too often when that same son looks at a called strike three, with two outs and a man on third. I’ve had both experiences as a father, and the temptation of pride after one outcome is rivaled only by the temptation of shame after the other.

In both moments, though, I am striving to be far more concerned with what my son thinks of himself, than what I think of him. That’s the only way he can truly celebrate the victories as his own, and take in the lessons, with his head held high, that only defeats can teach us.

I’ve met far too many adults who are still chasing after their parents’ elusive blessing, and it’s sad. What they don’t see is that even if they finally get that validation, it will never feel as good as they hoped it would. And it will never feel as uplifting as genuine self-respect. Never.

Next time your kid does something great, try this: “Wow, that’s impressive. You’ve gotta be really proud of yourself!”

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