Sometimes, with good intention, we send mixed messages to
We want them to think for themselves, be internally
motivated, and not be overly influenced by other people's needs or
opinions, yet the way we make them feel good is by
"I'm proud of you."
There is only love and appreciation behind these words.
But there also is an underlying message of what it means to feel
worthy. If you do something that I or others approve of, then you
will feel good. If you do something that impresses me or
others, then you will feel valued.
What is our true definition of success for our children?
What do we want them to understand about accomplishment? Should
their focus be on the opinion of others or their opinion of
Our job is to help our children feel comfortable with
their insides. We support this by seeing, listening and honoring
what they do, but we can also remind them to tap into how they feel
about their accomplishments in an effort to strengthen their inner
So maybe when our child brings home an A, instead of
saying "I'm proud of you," we can say, "Wow, that must
feel great!" A simple shift, but a completely
different message. Instead of creating their joy with our approval,
we allow them to feel their own joy and join in their
When kids are young, we may feel that we need to
constantly direct them or apply extensive external motivation to
influence their decision making. But our underlying hope is that
they eventually learn to not base their decisions on another
person's approval. We hope they base their decisions on what feels
right to them.
Then, as they move through life, they can be guided by
their own inner awareness instead of societal expectation. They can
place personal contentment above approval and popularity, and
understand that while it's wonderful to have people noticing
accomplishments, it's even better to feel inner alignment and
I haven't given up saying "I'm proud of you."
Sometimes these words are perfect descriptors for how I am
feeling. But I try to balance it with phrases like, "What do you
think about that?" or "That must feel amazing!"
Always with the intention to hear and witness their hard
work, but then hand back what is rightfully theirs.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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