There is not much that makes a little kid happier than being really proud of themselves. This morning I came downstairs after showering to find my daughter waiting for me on the bottom stair, absolutely estatic. When I left she had been contently coloring and couldn’t wait to show me how well she had done staying within the lines.
She was thrilled with the praise that I immediately lavished upon her, but I don’t think that was her main motivation for wanting to show me. I think she genuinely wanted me to share in her sense of accomplishment. While we were watching football this weekend, Alaina , uninterested because of the teams playing, occupied herself in the next room by playing games on her new tablet. Occasionally she would come into the living room looking for high fives, but for the most part she stayed where she was. We always knew how well she was doing by listening for the self-congratulatory cheers.
They still desire our approval, but I wonder if children are really as desperate for it as we think. Our refrigerator will always be covered with pictures and report cards. Ribbons and trophies will always be displayed prominently. This will be done to show her our pride, but I think even more importantly they will be there to remind her of the results of her efforts.
I think this holds true for most people. We crave that sense of accomplishment. That ability to step back, look at ourselves, and say “that was a pretty damn good job.”
The teenage years are difficult for tons of reasons, but I think this is a big one. There is so much comparing oneself to others that it becomes more important than ever to have something to be proud of. Academics and sports can fill this role, but if that isn’t their “thing”, something else needs to be found. A hobby or activity encouraged in those years when simply tying your own shoes no longer is enough to make you feel good about yourself.
There are many phrases that kids use to drive us insane. “No,” “again,” “you’re the one being fresh.” Two of the worst are “can I help”, and “I’ll do it myself.” Simple chores such as washing dishes or getting ready to leave the house immediately turn into major projects.
In the short term it’s incredibly annoying, but I think these are important moments. Moments when they begin to develop that sense of pride in themselves that becomes so crucial to feelings of happiness and self-worth later in life.
A much easier philosophy to stick to when they are quietly coloring on the floor than when you’re late getting out the door and a four year old with a backwards shirt has decided that socks and mittens are now interchangeable.
This post was previously published on www.thirstydaddy.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
Photo credit: Jeremy Barnes