Or do you really mean, “I’m so happy for you!”
Is there a difference?
To feel proud, pleased, or satisfied with something you’ve accomplished is a wonderful, intrinsic reward for your effort. But to take pride in the result of someone else’s actions or accomplishments seems to send a different message.
Over the years, I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, you must be so proud of him/her!” referring to whichever of my child’s accomplishments they happen to be noticing in the moment. And each time it catches me off-guard—it’s not my accomplishment. To give me any credit seems to downplay the often intense effort they have put into the deed at hand. I usually reply along the lines of, “Yes, I’m so happy for them!” Maybe I add, “They’ve worked so hard.”
And I am very excited! For them. I am happy that they are doing what they love to do and that their effort is paying off along the way. To my child I might say, “That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you!” or “Way to go!” I celebrate their accomplishment with them—it’s not about me.
Unschooling parents are more likely to see the situation from the child’s perspective, instead of thinking about how their child’s actions make them feel. Instead of thinking “I’m proud”, they think “my child must be thrilled!” It’s the same when things go awry, like we were talking about earlier this month (When You Want To Fix Things For Your Child). We commiserate with their disappointment, but we don’t wear it personally. If as parents we get so invested in our children’s lives that we take on their actions as our own, we can set up a codependency of sorts. Where our own joys and sorrows are dependent on our child’s joys and sorrows—and vice versa. Where neither of us are our own, independent selves. That’s not our goal as parents.
But “I’m so proud of you” seems so harmless! Maybe.
Yet parents can end up exerting control over their child’s actions through their use of the phrase. How? By praising only the efforts that the parents approve of, the ones they are personally proud of, rather than celebrating the accomplishments the child is proud of. Through the, maybe overt, maybe inadvertent, pattern of expressing their pride in their child, they can manipulate their actions. The child can feel the weight of their parents’ expectations, “Make us proud!” Moving forward, if a child wants to feel valued by their parents, their choices may become rooted in pleasing their parents, not in their own interests and passions. They are less likely to discover who they are; more likely to suppress their inclinations in favour of trying to be who their parents wish them to be. That way be the dragons of eventual discord and rebellion.
Let’s play with another example: “It was a proud day for him when his son entered college.” (dictionary.reference.com)
Again, it’s a pretty common statement, yes? The first time I read it my brain basically skipped the “for him” phrase, and I thought yes, entering college could well be a proud day, the son likely did some hard work to get there and it felt like a solid accomplishment. (Let’s disregard the question of why he’s there for now, yes?) But then I noticed the “for him”. Dad is proud, meaning he feels a sense of accomplishment in his son starting college. He is taking the credit he feels is his due for his son entering college. Maybe he feels like those years of effort to guide his child along the path to college (studying, grades, extra-curricular activities to round out his college application etc.) have paid off.
Or, instead, is he really happy for his son? Is he excited for him to start this new phase of his life, this new adventure?
I think sometimes we confuse the feelings of pride and joy. Ha! That reminds me of the phrase “pride and joy”. Maybe they got tagged together precisely because it can be challenging to separate those feelings? Like “Her garden is her pride and joy.” (idioms.thefreedictionary.com) Or “My child is my pride and joy.” Do you take the same personal satisfaction in the spoils of your garden (delicious veggies or beautiful flowers), the results of your direct gardening actions, as you do in the actions of your child? That’s a great question to ask ourselves.
I think it’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves if we’re feeling pride or joy. It helps us to check our perspective, to put it where the action is, so to speak. Maybe start with the question, “Whose actions were directly responsible for the accomplishment?” If we’re feeling pride in the results of someone else’s action, that may be a clue we’re uncomfortably invested. If what we’re really feeling is great joy for them in their accomplishment, it’s probably better to express that directly. Maybe our behind-the-scenes actions were involved enough that we do feel a sense of accomplishment and pride ourselves—that it feels like something we’ve accomplished together. That’s understandable too!
There’s no definitive right or wrong—there’s understanding. And from there we can move forward more clearly. Unschooling parents find understanding ourselves—our thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and motivations—helps us better support our children as they too explore and discover their own thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and motivations. And it’s not a one-time thing for any of us—we all grow and change with experience.
Again, unschooling is life. 🙂
You might also like …
1. “Who Am I and What Makes Me Tick?” — Why is it important for our children, and us, to explore what makes us tick and what does that have to do with unschooling? Which leads me to ponder a question often asked by people upon first hearing about unschooling, “How will they learn to get up for a job and become independent, successful adults?”
2. Ways to Build Trust in Each Other — In my experience, a trusting relationship with my children is the backbone of our unschooling lives. And that trust goes both ways: my trust in them, and their trust in me. Developing this deep level of trust doesn’t happen overnight—it is built over time and through experience. Let’s talk about some of the ways we can work to build relationships steeped in trust.
3. Are You Playing the Role of “Mother”? — I’ve always felt vaguely uncomfortable with the typical counsel to moms of younger kids along the lines of “remember to take time for yourself.” I finally caught a glimpse as to why as I pondered this question.
Want to learn more about unschooling?
You’re welcome to check out my free intro to unschooling book!