When was the last time you told your child you were proud of them? I’m sure you’ve told them “good job” plenty of times, but we’re in an age where the millennial generation has been receiving participation awards their entire life. Being told “good job” is just an expectation. If they heard anything else, the consequences could be devastating. But there’s a difference between doing a good job and being told you’re proud of them.
I recently spent time with a teen who has been struggling with their parents. As they explained the issues it sounded very much like many of the issues I hear from other teens who are systematically trying to become independent and whose parents don’t know how to handle it. However, as we continued to talk I found that much of the student’s angst came from a lack of validation by their parents. Everything was wrong and not what the parents wanted. So much so that siblings and other relatives began to project the rest of the family’s problems onto this one member. No matter how much good this student did, it was never right.
Shortly after talking with the student I met their father. Knowing how the student felt about their relationship with their father, I was very intentional to praise the student for work they had done on our recent mission trip. The father replied “Yes, this moment has been a dream co…” and he stopped as he saw his student walk up next to him. I was shocked. Rather than complete his sentence to me, a complete stranger, about his pride in his student within their hearing, he concluded with “well… yeah… okay, let’s go” as he turned to lead his student to the car.
That moment stuck with me for days afterwards. I could see a student who longed to connect with their parent and felt burdened by a lack of relationship; and a father who was proud of their student’s accomplishments yet couldn’t muster the strength to tell them face to face. I wanted to lock the both of them in a room and make them talk. To shake the parent like a rag doll and make them break down that wall of parenting that focusing on discipline more than nurturing.
In my own little world I know the power of parental pride. When I intentionally hold my son and tell him how proud I am, he blossoms. Bad behavior disappears. No matter how high my expectations when he meets those expectations he deserves to be told. Too many parents forget this. I see parents constantly who spend time pushing their children to the next success, but never validating how proud they are of the person their child is becoming along the way. Children long to hear it from their parents. I’m nearly 35 years old and I still love hearing it from my father.
For the parents who have a hard time encouraging your students, it’s not a sign of weakness. Your student will not see this as a carte blanche to now rebel and start doing drugs. They will always need you and more importantly need your love and support as you grow with pride with the person they have become. For those parents who know exactly what I’m talking about, take time today to find a reason to tell your children how proud you are of them. And see how great the day goes. Who knows, they may clean their room without you even asking.