I'm not proud of my kids, and you shouldn’t be either

Why do we say “I’m Proud of You”?

I will never again tell my kids that I am proud of them. So, you might be assuming that I’m one of those people who thinks we praised our kids too much and that’s why the millenials turned out so lazy and entitled. Um, no, I am NOT one of those people. But, I’m not proud of my kids for what they’ve done. And, it’s not because I don’t think they are A-mazing! (I do, and they are!) 

I’m not proud of my kids for what they’ve done, accomplished, achieved or produced. I’m also not ashamed of or disappointed in them (the opposite of proud) for things they haven’t done, accomplished, achieved, or produced.

So, to be honest, I am writing about this because of my own issues with comparing myself to other people and their children’s accomplishments. Because, somehow it is obviously a reflection of ME when my children achieve something to be “proud of,” right? 

When I would see someone post online about their child being on the dean’s list or landing a fantastic seeming job, I would feel a certain way – jealous maybe, or not as good as they are as a parent? 

So, since I do a lot of self reflection, I was thinking about my own reactions to parents saying they are proud of their kid for some amazing thing he/she did. 

And, then I started to think about HOW and WHY we, as parents, use the phrase, “I’m so proud of (child’s name)!” And, then posting it on social media, of course!

As parents, we probably don’t realize this, but as I did my own thinking on it and also some research, I came to the conclusion that saying this isn’t a positive thing.

what to say instead of I'm proud of you

But what’s so bad about saying, “I’m proud of you” ???

Saying “I’m Proud of You” can be constraining.

As parents, one of the reasons why we say, “I’m proud of you,” is when our child excels in something (usually something that society deems important), like getting all A’s on their report cards, taking on a leadership role, being awarded a scholarship, showing talent in sports or a creative field, or landing a distinguished/high paying job.

What about things that society doesn’t deem important? Should your child not be recognized for those things? 

For most of us, our love is not contingent upon our child’s achievements, but to say you are proud of them (for only these things) can lead to their own belief that they need to achieve greatness, as defined by society, in order to be loved and to love themselves.

I want my children to know that my feelings towards or about them don’t rely on what they have achieved or accomplished or been awarded. 

Saying we are proud of our children for something that society says is worthy of pride is constraining, because it doesn’t allow for individuality and uniqueness of each person.

It leads to comparison among us, as parents, and among the children. It can be a form of judgment or approval. 

What about when your kid is average and doesn’t excel in things that we are “proud of” as parents/society? 

Would I not be proud if my child had done something differently? Would I not approve of another outcome?

What if he studied hard and got a C on a major test? Is a C not something to be proud of? Is it likely that I would put that on social media? Probably not.

This can be a huge topic and we could go on and on, but simply put – social media puts added pressures on ALL of us to measure up to everyone else.

When we, as parents, say we’re proud of these “social media worthy” achievements, it just adds to the pressure.

Our children need to know that their uniqueness is their gift (something WE ALL need to remember)!

What makes us different is what is most important about us! It is our PART to play in this world.

Saying “I’m Proud of You” can be a reflection of you (not them)

WE look better when our kids do things that society says we should be proud of.

When you tell your friends that you are so proud of your child for that amazing thing he did, are you saying that to show them you have something great or you did all the right things? Probably not consciously, but could you, in a way, be bragging? 

Because we, as parents, are also comparing ourselves with others, we want to show that we are also worthy and have something to “be proud of.” 

And, are we saying that we feel better associating with our children because of these extraordinary things they did?

It’s easier for us.

Things that normally get the “I’m proud of you” remark are things that make us feel good and make our lives easier. (Example: getting the good grades or into college with a scholarship makes it easier on me than getting average or below average grades and struggling to get a college acceptance and increasing the need for student loans, etc.)

Of course, as parents we want our children’s lives to be “easy” too. But easy is not always the best. Having it “easy” doesn’t necessarily create the grit in someone that is needed to get through life’s ultimate challenges.

What if our child chose a path or ideology that wasn’t something we would choose, or even the opposite of what we would choose? It is so important to accept our children as individuals.

(Honestly, yes, I am glad that my children seem to have generally the same views and values as I do, but I cannot imagine not loving them or showing them respect for their own choices or opinions.)

It’s not pride that I want them to get from me; it’s acceptance for just being who they are and respect for their choices and the paths that they decide to take. “

respect and accept your child

Ok, what is better than “I’m Proud of You”

I know parents only want the best for their children. This post is just something to think about. Showing that “pride” or talking up your kids’ achievements in groups – in real life or online – can lead to more and more comparison with others.

I definitely feel it when I see someone posting about their child’s big achievement. And, I know that this is for me to handle and be mindful of with myself, but as a whole, maybe we can do our part to consciously make the effort to:

  1. Show that you love your kids and accept and respect them no matter what (to them and about them)
  2. Talk about your kids’ experiences and learning processes rather than post or talk only about the things that society tells us are “pride worthy.”
For more on comparing ourselves with others, you might be interested in this post too. 

Think about why you say, “I’m proud of you.” Let’s not box our children into what society says they should or should not do. Let’s not make our children’s achievements about us. I am committing to making sure my kids know – even now in early adulthood – that my love. acceptance, and respect is not contingent upon…well anything.
Do you want some ideas of what to say instead of “I’m proud of you” or ideas of things you can say that show you unconditionally accept and respect your children? Sign up here and get a free download of 20 Things to Say.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below, connect with me on Facebook, or send me an email anytime.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jon

    I do agree that pride can be constraining but it seems to me that the issue at hand isn’t so much the expression of pride but praising outcomes that are out of your kids (or anyone’s) control.

    No matter how much we may try we only get to control our own efforts and not the outcomes so it seems to me that the effort is what we should focus our pride on. For example if my kid studied hard but got a poor grade in a test then I feel that praising and rewarding their effort (whenever I seen it not just after the test) would be a good thing far more so than praising and rewarding them for whatever grade they received.

    My kid had control over their effort but not over the grade they would receive and I want to encourage and teach them to persevere in their efforts with less concern for the outcomes they cannot control because it’s only with persistent effort that we make progress in life.

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