My 6th grader recently had an assignment where she had to name one thing that she was proud of - “Mom, what am I proud of?” I replied, “I can’t answer that for you. You need to decide for yourself what you are proud of.” She thought about it for a couple of minutes. She then wrote down she was proud of her straight A’s last semester, which I agreed was definitely something that she should be proud of.
As parents we are in a very tough position. We want to instill confidence in our children and a feeling of security about the things that they do. We want them to recognize that their hard work paid off and that they have a right to be proud. We believe that by instilling pride it will help their self-esteem and help them believe anything is possible if they put their mind and effort into it. On the flip side, we also have a responsibility to teach our children humility and socially acceptable behaviors. How do you accurately explain the tipping point between being proud and bragging? For example, it’s ok to tell your teacher that you are proud you got straight A’s, but running around the classroom show your report card to all of your friends is not ok. As an adult the slight social differences are evident, but to a child the boundaries are not so obvious. They will quickly realize the difference when their friends start making comments or treating them differently.
Teaching pride and humility is just one piece of the parenting pie. We also have to keep our own sense of pride in check. Parents are emotionally tied to the performance of their children. It starts from day one – this is my baby, it came from me. The baby becomes a reflection of the job you are doing as parents. As people compliment your baby (later your children), you take it as if they are complimenting you. We can all admit that having someone validate the job you are doing helps settle those fears and anxieties that run rampant at 2 am when the baby is screaming and nothing is working. We take pride in that validation. As a result you start to link your child’s behavior and performance to your own validity as a parent. At the same time we begin to project the kind of life that we want for our children. We want “better” for them compared to what we had growing up. We want them to be a “success” – which for some means athletic, artistic or musical excellence, while others measure success in the classroom. There’s no argument that we all want what’s best for our child. We want to protect them and guide them out of harm’s way. It’s easy to let those initially good intentions, slide into expectations and high standards. It’s at that point, in the name of Parental Pride, we reach a point where we might start pushing too hard for what we want, how we think things should be and for the best path we think they should take.
If you think about it, being a parent is the ultimate exercise in humility. You believe your intentions are in their best interest, but that is your belief. Your child may look like you or sound like you, but they are their own person. A unique individual that you may be able to influence, but cannot control. Recognizing, and accepting, that you cannot control the ultimate outcome will humble you.
Our children can also be our greatest teachers. They question you, which may make you question yourself. They challenge you - why do you believe that? Why do you think that way? They make you think twice about beliefs you have had for all your life. They hold a mirror and reflect back to us. In doing so, your children often show you what you most need to learn about yourself.
There is no relationship like the one you have with your child. The pride you feel is inescapable and will be like no other in your life. One word of warning, be careful not to get so caught up in the pride, that you miss out on the humility and the chance to learn more about yourself than you’ve ever known before.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.