What if I told you that being proud of your kids doesn’t matter? Not really. Not a bit.
What really matters is for your kids to be proud of themselves!
Semantics? Well, maybe. But if you consider that one major goal of parenting is to teach your kids to make good decisions, then the sooner you can teach them to find their own motivation for success, the better.
Think about it. Wouldn’t you prefer that your son do his homework because he thinks it’s important, rather than just to make you happy? Wouldn’t you like your daughter to stay away from drugs because she wants to be healthy, instead of to avoid getting in trouble?
At some point, if it hasn’t happened already, your child is going to turn 14. About that time, he’ll begin to lose the motivation to do well just to please you. But he’ll always care about what HE thinks about himself. That’s the motivation that lasts a lifetime.
Here’s some language to play with:
- Start by asking your child what she’s proud of, and acknowledge it when you see it happen.
- When she does well, reinforce it with, “I bet you feel really good about that!”
- When she does okay but not terrific, reinforce the positive, with a little push, like: “Nice job — I bet that feels good! Is there anything you’d do differently next time to do even better?”
- And my favorite line: “I bet you’re really proud of yourself, aren’t you?”
- Sometimes I even add, “I mean, sure, I’m proud of you – that was awesome – but it’s really cool that you’re proud of yourself. THAT’s really what’s important, isn’t it?!”
And here’s some language to avoid:
- “I need you to…” take a shower, finish your dinner, do your homework.
- “What do we have for homework tonight?”
- “Can you do me a favor?” … will you please get started on your homework? … will you please unload the dishwasher? … will you do your chores?
The goal, here, is to start helping your kids see that they’re actually doing things for themselves, not for you. Learning. Grades. Making friends. Being kind. Even cleaning up the dinner dishes (I know, that one’s a stretch!). Those things are all THEIR jobs, not something they’re asked to do to make you happy.
Now don’t get me wrong. If you usually walk the dog, and you need some help, then it’s reasonable to ask a favor. But if it’s your child’s job – a chore, an expectation, a homework assignment – then let them see it as THEIRS, not something they’re doing as a favor for you.
At the end of the day, not only will this foster their ownership and independence. Ultimately, this is what will help them become the fabulous human beings who will be motivated to “do the right thing” throughout their lives — including taking care of you when you’re old! ☺