Family photo with parents and teenage son

My Child’s Success is Not My Own

By Kim Strobel

July 17, 2018

Praising Their Achievements—Protecting Their Self-Worth

Like all you other parents out there, I’m constantly striving to make myself BETTER for my son. A better listener, a better caregiver, a better support system.

And I often worry that I’m not making the right decisions. (Spencer is 18, but I still sometimes wonder if I should have chased my one-time dream of being a stay-at-home mom!)  

It’s the eternal struggle for every parent. But a few years ago, I discovered an amazing book, The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, that made me take a fresh look at the way I’m parenting my son.

One passage in particular moved me and caused me to reevaluate some of the things I thought I already knew:

“When we aren’t solidly grounded in our own essence, we tend to compensate by creating an external life in which just about everything becomes a ‘big deal.’ Lacking an adequate sense of our intrinsic value, we feel a need to exaggerate, bend over backwards, and overanalyze. Believing that more is better, bigger is brighter, and expensive is of more value, many of us have lost the ability to respond to life without making everything (sports, schooling, friends) a big production.

“When parents overdo everything they are projecting their own unmet needs onto their children. These children grow up addicted to a life of highs and lows unable to rest in the ordinary. Whenever you feel the need for your children to excel or continually gloat about all of their accomplishments, you might ask yourself whether your motivation is to enable them to become who they really are or whether you have a constant need to bask in their glory.”

The Overzealous Parent

From time to time, we’re all guilty of being overzealous when it comes to our child’s achievements. And I’m just going to go on record and tell y’all that I do not always do this right. In fact, I screw up … a lot.  

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be proud of our children and their accomplishments. We’re allowed to brag on them some—some being the crucial word here. We really have to watch how we phrase our praise and recognition of them.

You’ve probably encountered people in your life for whom the very first thing out of their mouth is a glowing report about their child. They tell you how well little David ran his last race, where Susie stands in the state rankings, how fast Bobby can throw a baseball, how smart Allison is and “did you know she got a perfect score on her last test?”

It’s like these parents’ entire self worth comes from how their children perform, and they want to prove to you that their kids (and they) are elite, better, superior, etc.

It’s aggravating, but like I said, we’ve all been there. I’ve recognized my own imperfections in this area, especially after reading Dr. Tsabary’s book. Knowledge is a powerful thing, but it’s even more powerful when it’s combined with ACTION. So, I’ve taken what I’ve learned and applied it to my behavior toward my son.  

My Son is ‘More Than’

My son Spencer is so much more to me than a basketball game, whether he’s done well, or not-so-great. He is so much more than a day when he’s achieved straight A’s, or a day when his grades aren’t the best. (I admit, as a teacher, this one is tough to take!) And he is so much more to me than a day when he’s made strong decisions, or one where he’s displayed weakness.

My goal is to always communicate to him that his accomplishments or mistakes DO NOT define who he is. And they certainly don’t make me approve or disapprove of him as a person.

We are so much more than what we can or cannot achieve at any given time. It’s not that I don’t want Spencer to experience great successes, to strive for excellence and meet his goals. Rather I want his successes to be ones HE chooses to shoot for, and not those I’ve inadvertently (or not-so-inadvertently) pushed him toward. And by gosh, that is hard for a control freak like me!

Really, my hope is that Spencer truly knows he is enough, just as he is, and that my love and attention are freely given—rather than earned or lost based on achievements or mistakes.

I’ll consider my parenting a job well done if I’ve given him the courage to walk the path of his own spirit. That’s the most important gift any child can receive.

REAL TALK: Have you ever been an “overzealous parent”? How do you celebrate your child’s successes while still supporting them through their mistakes? Share your comments below; or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter to continue the conversation.


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