The TrackSuit CEO recently took another job, thus making my time home with the family just a little more precious. I know I’ve got to make the most of my Sundays so we were booked solid. One of our activities was bowling at my cousin’s birthday party. My 3 year old was having a great time even though she found it difficult, at first, to get the ball all the way to the end of the lane. So later when she started to get the hang of it, mom and I couldn’t conceal our excitement.
Later as my wife and I reflected on our day, the kids in bed’, she made an observation. When we applauded her bowling her reaction wasn’t what you would expect. It was a sort of dismissive, annoyed kind of reaction. Not a “yea! my parents are cheering me on” kind of look. I realized that our parenting technique is working. She doesn’t need that reassurance from us. She knows she’s doing well and doesn’t need us to tell her. We’ve tried since she was born to teach her to look to herself for approval. Instead of saying, “We’re so proud of you” we’ll say, “You must be so proud of yourself”. And this seems obvious but it’s really not and I doubt many of us were raised this way: to look within for approval.
When you look within yourself for approval or praise you don’t have to do things just for appearance. You do them because they’re the right thing to do, not just because it makes your parents proud of you. One of the worst examples of this kind of approval-based parenting was when an acquaintance of ours (I won’t say friend) tells her son it hurts her feelings when he wets the bed. Talk about a messed up way for a parent to tie their emotional well-being into their child’s actions. So for the rest of his life when his mom is sad or upset he will assume that it’s probably because of something he did.
So looking back on that reaction at the bowling alley, that “settle down, Mom and Dad” kind of reaction you shouldn’t see until early adolescence, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride. I’ll do my best to keep it to myself.