I have guarded myself against saying, “I’m so proud of you!” to children, because I don’t want them to get big-headed. I’m all for building up their confidence, but not so much their ego. It’s not an easy balance to strike.
The question is: how is taking pride in our children a positive or a negative for them?
My son is modest. My step daughter too. I am proud of them both, in a good way.
Pride goes before a fall
There’s an old expression that says, “Pride goes before a fall.” It isn’t Shakespeare, it’s a proverb from the Bible. I remember reading how to books about raising children, which encouraged parents to build confidence, self respect in their children — but not self esteem. My poor kids! I love them lots and lots, but shied away from empty praise. Maybe they missed out:(
But the trouble with pride is that there is a good aspect and a bad aspect.
Pride can make us feel loved and confident, but it can also make us feel entitled or arrogant. It can give us confidence or it can create unwarranted expectation. It can give us a boost or it can push us to think we are better than others. Without pride, we can become wall flowers, timid and lacking any sense of capability. Yet with pride, we can carry a superior attitude.
Like I said above, it isn’t easy to find the perfect balance.
What is “the fall”?
Pride leads us to “fall” if we get too big for our britches! When we most expect we are invincible, this is when we are most prone to stumble. When we believe the press (ie friends or family) that states how wonderful we are, we can succumb to ego and fall into the trap of making impulsive or unwise decisions believing we can do no wrong. “The fall” is unpleasant and can lead to change — for the better if we learn from our mistakes.
Teaching self respect not self esteem
If our children take themselves seriously, developing respect for themselves based on a track record of responsible behaviour and growing maturity, when they make mistakes — and they will because we all do — they are most likely to benefit and grow from the experience.
If our children are puffed up based on empty praise, they are less likely to have the tools to handle difficulty and when they make mistakes — and they will because we all do — they may struggle to handle constructive criticism and disappointment.
To my mind, building self respect in children is superior to building self esteem. If I had to choose one or other, I’m glad I opted to promote self respect. Both people I had a hand in raising are independent thinkers and very resilient. But I do wish I flattered a little bit more… they are lovely people and I wish I’d told them that more often when they were little.
Take the long view
I guess the bottom line is that I think it’s important we take the long term look in raising our children. What is our goal for our children? What is the step by step way to lead them toward that goal? Little things do matter… So, can we let little things lead our children towards developing courage, integrity, good citizenship and self respect? I hope so because that way, they can have a more excellent chance to make good choices regarding their work ethic, peer choices… becoming people we can like and be proud of:)