I am quite convinced that I spent a great portion of my life trying to do something that would make my dad proud of me. In his latter years, he did express pride in me and it meant the world to me. But, I realized that I had not heard words of pride expressed through the first 5 decades of my life—and yearned for that.
My dad was (and is) my hero. He was a man of passion for his family, his career (he was an architect), his community, his colleagues and friends, and the youth of our community. He spent years volunteering for the YMCA. Many young men who did not have a father figure were influenced in a positive way by the guidance provided by my dad.
Dad served in the Marine Corp during WWII and was, truly, a part of the Greatest Generation. His discipline of my siblings and me was not with anger or punishment. His discipline came through modeling a life of integrity, doing what he said he would do, and having high expectations for himself—and for us. We did not want to disappoint him. He was our hero.
I realize as a mature adult that while my dad was not vocal with his words of pride, that he was proud. He was not critical of me—although I interpreted it as such through much of my life. He wanted and expected the best from and for me. I give a great deal of credit for my own success to his example and to his continuous message of “you can do better than that”.
However, I yearned for words of pride from my father and we—John and I– have been generous with our words of pride, our acknowledgements, and our support of the things our children did—and do now—that exemplify effort put forth, work well done, and life matters that they handle well. And, even if things don’t go so well for them, we express pride in the effort they have put forth. Pride.
I yearned for the words “I’m proud of you” from my own dad. I didn’t hear those words until he was at the end of his life—but those words are cherished. The adult in me heard the words—but the child in me wept with joy.
Words of pride flow easily from my mouth to my kids—and now my grandkids. And, they flow easily—to my colleagues , teammates, and employees. Positive reinforcement is, no doubt, one of the strongest motivators of a human being. And there is nowhere that words of pride mean more to a child than when they are experssed—sincerely—from a parent.
So, parents, tell your kids you are proud of them. This does not mean that you do not encourage them. This does not mean that you accept less than their best. As I wrote in a previous blog, you do want to encourage them to stretch and to function with a dedication to excellence. However, notice their effort. Notice their accomplishments. Notice even the small things that go well. Sincerely and from a place of honesty and love, be willing—and able—to say “I’m proud of you.”