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May 6, 2015

Stand By You

Hal photo outside Feb2012“You can stand tall without standing on someone.” (Harriet Woods)

One of the interesting conundrums the Self-Esteem movement created goes as follows: we try to praise our kids into competitive accomplishment, then we want to protect them when they fall short by telling them life is not about competition, it’s about just being yourself. Similarly, we encourage our kids to take pride in themselves and their work, then also tell them not to boast, because pride goeth before the fall.

In therapy, we call this crazy-making behavior. Especially when you consider how much our kids have heard us chatter in amazement about other kids’ accomplishments, and gossip in amazement at other kids’ mistakes.

Perhaps it’s best to talk less about status, and more about passionate pursuit. Less about where we stand in relation to others, and more about the quality of effort we see in ourselves. There is actually room for us all to stand tall in self-respect, even as we vary in relative height.

Here’s what I’ve tried to tell my kids, after a test or a game: “The only score that matters is how close you came to giving your best. Only you can see that scoreboard. As for me, I love you and I think you’re great.”

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