Academic prowess, athletic abilities, and such are all wonderful reasons to be proud of your kids. But not every child gets perfect grades, scores winning goals, or solves world hunger. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of your pride and admiration, though! Let’s discuss.
Be Proud of Your Kids for Who They Are, Not Just What They Achieve
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about how very different my two kids are. One is a straight-A student and a total athlete. The other struggled a bit in school (she is catching up beautifully now, though) and has absolutely zero interest in sports. Yet I am equally just so incredibly proud of both of them, and that pride has nothing to do with their external achievements or accomplishments.
Honestly, there are so many things that I value more than grades. Now, don’t get me wrong, I beam with pride when my son wins a particularly tough tennis match, or my daughter brings home a hard-earned A. Of course, I want them to feel good about their accomplishments, and to know that their hard work isn’t going unnoticed.
Ultimately, my truest, deepest, and longest-lasting sense of pride comes not from what they can do but from who they are. I am in awe of their kind hearts, their compassion, their generosity, their deep sense of empathy and consideration for others. I admire their courage, perseverance, and how loyal they are to each other (even though they sometimes fight like cats and dogs).
Pride shouldn’t just be tied to what kids can DO
I just feel like we, as a society, put too much value on external achievements, and it’s actually damaging our kids. If we constantly focus our pride on the things that they can DO, what happens when they CAN’T do those things?
For example, say a child always makes straight As. Her parents constantly tell her how proud they are of her grades. Then, one year, she struggles in math. She still gets As in every other class, but no matter how much work she puts into it, she can barely scrape out a D in that class.
Even if her parents don’t punish her for bad grades, chances are she’ll punish herself. Why? Because she feels like she’s letting her parents down. She’s tied her self-worth to external accomplishments rather than internal characteristics.
Did her parents mean for that to happen? Were they actively trying to make her feel like she only mattered if she got good grades? Of course not! I mean, no good parent purposely places unrealistically high expectations on their kids and purposely makes them feel bad about themselves when they fail to live up to them.
These 10 Ways to Say, “I’m Proud of You” Focus on Who Your Child IS, Not What They DO
Our kids are facing a mental health pandemic of epic proportions. So, I feel like we parents need to find ways to boost their self-esteem and help them see that they are more than just a list of achievements.
We need to say “I’m proud of you” in ways that focus on who they are, not what they can do. Here are some examples. Obviously, tailor them so that they make sense to your child.
- Reinforce good behavior: “I am so proud of your kind and compassionate heart, and how much you care about others.”
- Reward efforts rather than final results: “I’m proud of you for having the courage to ask for help and for persevering through that difficult math class.
- Reinforce being a good sport: You should be so proud of how much work you put into that game, and how respectful you were of the other team when they won.
- Reinforce adaptability: I know this year hasn’t been easy for you, but I am so proud of how you’ve worked hard to adapt to a challenging situation.
- Reward consideration, leadership, and initiative: I saw how you took the initiative to help your friend. That’s such a wonderful and considerate thing to do.
- Encourage forgiveness and understanding: “It’s not easy to forgive someone who disappoints you. I’m very proud of you for being so understanding.”
- Rewards honesty and responsible behavior: “It took a lot of guts to tell me the truth. I am proud of you for taking responsibility for your actions.
- Encourages self-control: “I know how boring it is to sit quietly in a doctor’s office for so long. I am proud of how polite and mindful you’re being of others.
- Rewards listening: “You’re such a great listener! That makes me so proud.
- Expresses unconditional love: You should be so proud of the person you’re becoming. I know I am!
These are just a few examples of ways to be proud of your kids for who they are instead of just what they can do. Other things to express pride over include:
- Cooperating with others
- Being faithful and loyal to friends and family
- Putting a thorough effort into something (regardless of the end result)
- Showing focus and determination (again, regardless of the final result)
- Being fair to others
- Showing great imagination and curiosity
- Focusing on learning, not just on getting a good grade
- Spending time with family instead of going out with friends
- Pitching in around the house without being asked
- Expressing emotions appropriately and not bottling them up
In other words, basically just being the wonderful little people that they are! If you need more ideas, check out 32 life lessons I want my kids to learn. Whenever they show me that they’ve really absorbed one of these lessons, I tell them how proud I am!
Let me just reiterate that I’m NOT saying you can’t be proud of a good report card, a winning goal, and so on. We can absolutely be proud when our kids show us what they can do. But we also need to express pride when they show us who they are on the inside. We need to reinforce the amazing people that they’re becoming, not just reward the things they’ve already done.