Kids’ success, is it about you?
As we support our kids in finding purpose, we need to hold on to the true goal: building our kids up from the inside, out. It is very easy to get distracted from this parenting job.
In today’s prevailing culture, distraction is exhibited as a focus more on the external qualities of children and parents. Often, the external successes of one’s children are mistaken for proof of one’s ability to parent. To that end, talking about these successes and sharing them on social media can become even more of an external distraction.
The core, or sense-of-self cannot be strengthened through external means. Our kids’ accomplishments are not ours to own. The more one talks about kids’ accomplishments, the more it becomes about the “praise” rather than the accomplishment itself. Once external, it remains external.
What might this look like in action?
When Tom studies hard and gets a good grades, there is a feeling of achievement – I worked hard and it paid off. That feels good.
Once Tom’s dad starts to talk about this, “Tom worked hard, he’s very smart. He got a really good mark,” Tom learns that Dad thinks he’s pretty smart. That external label starts to diminish the internal feeling. When Dad starts to post about Tom’s marks on social media, the external feedback continues.
It is no longer about Tom’s effort, now it is about how smart Tom is. There is pressure to appear smart, smart enough that maybe Dad will post about it again and again. If he doesn’t post, Tom wonders – why not? Am I not good enough?
What if Tom feels so pressured to get good marks that he starts cheating to get them? Does it matter? Externally, Tom still appears smart and Dad is still talking about it so that must be good. Internally, Tom feels anxious to live up to Dad’s external creation. He will do what he can to be that label. OR he will not and crash.
This story could be about academics, hockey, music, swimming, or good deeds, the same holds true. Sharing successes and effort among close friends is not a big deal. Constantly boasting about our children in large external ways is a big part of why levels of child anxiety and fear are through the roof right now.
It is important that parents focus on helping our kids find purpose, not to fill our insides (or outsides,) but to fill our children’s insides.
So how do we as parents move forward?
As we quoted recently,
Children seldom have experiences or hear messages that convey, “You are absolutely critical to the survival of our family. We need you. We could not accomplish what we do without your participation.”
We know that kids learn 75% of what they learn through our ACTIONS and only 25% through our WORDS. We need to create opportunity for our kids to experience purpose. We can acknowledge it with actions: a smile, a head rub, a pat on the back. We can use our words to notice and acknowledge their contribution to our family, “Thanks for your help on that. I appreciate your cooperation.”
It’s time to get clear:
Are you talking about yourself and your life or are you always talking about your kids’ life?
Are you posting about your kids on social media?
Why are you posting it?
Do your kids wonder whether they are post-worthy?
Do your kids successes make you a better parent?
It all comes back to “What is parenting?” We believe that a big part of parenting is building kids from the inside out.
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Check out this compelling info graphic, released by The Family Institute at Northwestern University . Mental Health of Affluent Teens: The Challenge of Prosperity.