My husband and I were watching “House of Cards” the other night and President Underwood (Kevin Spacey) had a grandpa and his grandson in the Oval Office. Underwood told the boy he had the chance to be President one day if he worked hard in school. After they left the Oval Office the grandpa told the grandson that he would never be President, that there were some things that were never going to happen for them. My husband commented that the grandpa was correct, we don’t live in a time where you can come from nothing and achieve everything. That got me thinking. Is telling your kids they can be anything they want to be sometimes setting them up for failure? Should you encourage them even when what they want seems impossible or is it ok to destroy your children’s dreams?
There has been a lot of talk lately about overvaluing our kids. Researchers are saying that parents who overpraise their children could be turning them into narcissists with low self-esteem.
I think there’s a fine line between growing your child’s confidence in a healthy manner and the overvaluation this article talks about. And, like most fine lines, nobody should be expected the walk right down the middle.
For me, it’s simple. If my child does something well, I will encourage them to continue to thrive in whatever it is that may be. I will also encourage them to get better. Likewise, if there is something my child struggles with but wants to be better at, I will encourage them to keep trying so that they can get better. That being said, I don’t want to lie to my children. Take my daughter for example. She is a great singer and I don’t hesitate to praise her talent. I will admit that I’ve told her more than once she is a better singer than another person, for example, a YouTube video she has played for me or a singing competition we’re watching on T.V. I don’t feel I’m wrong for that. Singing, like other talents is one of those things some people are better at than others. On the other hand, I will also admit that I have told my daughter another person is a better singer than her. Some may say that’s bad parenting, that a parent should always think their child is #1, but the harsh reality is, they’re not always going to be. By the way, none of this makes one child, one person more important than another person. Do I praise my children for things they do well? Absolutely. But, I also teach my children that while they are special, they are no more or less special than the person sitting next to them. God made each and every one of in His image. He gave each of us our own special gift. He made each of us equal.
So where does the age old line, “you can be anything you want to be” fall into this? When we watched that scene in “House of Cards” the first thing I thought of is my daughter’s dream to audition for “The Voice.” I know people who’ve tried, out of millions, very few get the chance to actually audition for the judges. Most hopefuls are lucky to get past the first group audition. It’s a tough road and those who make it to “The Blinds” have amazing voices. Almost seems like a hard to reach dream. So, what do I say when my daughter asks me if I think she can make it? I tell her yes. If she works hard enough and wants it bad enough, I believe that dream is within her reach. She has my promise that if the show is still around when she’s ready she has my full support. But, what about those hard to reach dreams that truly do seem impossible? There’s another reality talent show my daughter has dreams of, “So You Think You Can Dance.” Here’s where that scene got real for me. Much like the grandpa in the “HoC” I see this as one of those dreams that is out of my daughter’s reach, however does that mean I should tell her it’s impossible? My husband would say yes, but me, I’m not so sure. Here’s the thing, my daughter has no rhythm. She’s tried jazz, hip-hop and ballet and dance just isn’t her thing. After a ballet recital, she asked me if she did good, I told her I think she did her best. Another time when we were playing “Just Dance” in our living room, she asked me if she was a good dancer. I told her, like singing dancing is a talent some people have and some don’t and that I didn’t think she was the best dancer but that didn’t mean she should ever stop dancing. Not one to be discouraged, yet another time she asked me if I thought she could make it on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Call me naive, but I think nothing is impossible. I thought for a minute and I told my daughter that the people on that show had dedicated their lives to dancing and they were awesome dancers and that while nothing is impossible I didn’t think she would be able to make it on that show. She told me I was mean, but she still dances, not well, but nevertheless, she dances. I may be mean, but why should I lie to her?
I’ve told my story, but did I really find an answer to my question? Do we encourage the “impossible” dream or do we kill it? Maybe there is no right answer. It seems to me it’s one of those many choices you have to make for yourself in how you choose to parent. When I first started writing this, I wanted to figure out what was best, but if I answered that, I’d be just like those parenting articles that anger me when I read them. You know, the ones that tell you if you’re not parenting exactly how they say you should be you’re doing it wrong. News flash, we’re all doing it wrong! OK, that was harsh, but in way, it’s true. No, we’re not all parenting 100% wrong, but nobody is parenting 100% right either and that’s ok. The only perfect parent is God.
I choose to praise my children for a job well done. I choose to encourage my children to follow their hearts desires. I choose to never lie to my children about their abilities whether it be a strength or a weakness. I choose to raise strong, confident children who believe in themselves and in others. I choose to watch my children succeed with as much pride as when I watch them fail.
So, what if my kid wanted to be President one day? Well, my answer would be different for each of my children. Each of my children has their own special gift and each has areas they excel in as well as areas they struggle in. While each answer would be different, one thing would be the same, I wouldn’t tell anyone of them it’s impossible. What about you? What would you tell your kid if they said they wanted to be President?