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I’m Not Proud of You.

no good job 

Sarah:

I’ll admit that this was a difficult concept for me to entertain or employ when I was first introduced to eliminating praise in my relationship with my kids by Alfie Kohn’s article Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good job!”  If you haven’t read it, I’d encourage you to start there.  But I’d like to take it one step further.

I want to talk about pride – the use of the word, the sentiment, all of it. I see bumper stickers (all.the.time.) as I’m driving that say, “I’m proud of my hockey playing, honor student, pure bred pug, cheer leader, blah, blah, blah.” You get the picture. And I am always disconcerted by this public display of a sentiment that feels like the antithesis of freedom, responsibility, and independence. When I think of ‘pride,’ there are three issues that come to mind for me:

1. I am immediately reminded of Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards. Is pride not a reward that affects the future behavior of our hockey player, student, (maybe not) pug, or cheerleader such that they are no longer making decisions based on their personal desires but rather on the response of those around them? My parents are proud. That feels good. I want more of that. Rewards are equally as dangerous as punishments as far as coercive, manipulative tools that impact how people feel about themselves and whether they will fulfill their passions or simply become a working piece in the grand machine. I definitely think a great many people are well aware of this effect and using it to its fullest. I find it detrimental to the individual.

2. What right do we have to feel pride for another’s accomplishments? Dictionary.com gives the definition of pride: “pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself.” Exactly. I have never once seen a bumper sticker reading, “I’m proud of myself.” It’s absolutely obscene to me that we should take credit for the actions or characteristics of another human being. Why? Because in allowing yourself this sense of pride, you have taken credit for a piece of that accomplishment and taken it away from that other person. It could not have happened without me. You could not have done this without me. I am such a splendid mom, dad, grandparent that you have been able to do something you may not ordinarily have been able to do.
Which leads me to number 3….

3. Feeling proud of your child because they’ve achieved some accomplishment, play a sport, eat nutritious food, or whatever indicates that you would not have ordinarily expected them to be able to do this. They have somehow done something that is beyond the ordinary. The truth is that we’re all amazing and we’re all ordinary. Amazing is the new ordinary if we recognize and revel in the beauty of each individual-for them, not for us.

Barb:
I too have very strong feelings about the use of this word – and the feeling I get whenever I hear it used in relation to another is nausea.

I have such a hard time keeping my mouth shut when someone says about one of my children, ‘aren’t you proud?’ or ‘you must be so proud.’ When the nausea ends, I want to scream. NO! I don’t feel pride in my children’s actions or accomplishments!

I feel joyous contentment that my children are living their lives on their terms, WITH NO REGARD for whether their mother will approve or disapprove, agree or disagree -and it’s not just because they are all adults; it was true when they were wee children. I feel happily alive and fulfilled knowing that they are each capable of discerning their own right from wrong (yes! the youngest children know this because when given the freedom to feel what is right, they do), tuning into and fine tuning their own always changing inner guidance systems, becoming increasingly powerful with each day, as they move toward the unique things that feel true and right for them, living with maximum respect for what calls to them from the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds.

I trust this. I trust myself to create a life for myself based on these principles. I don’t owe anyone anything and my children owe me nothing. NOTHING. We choose our thoughts and actions as a function of what feels good and true and powerful. We choose to treat ourselves and each other with respect and integrity and unconditional love because we have a created a very conscious life that supports this.

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84 Comments Post a comment
  1. najimama #

    Yes! Yes! Recently on FB I was part of a discussion about the negative affects of praise in raising children and this woman piped in that she was “so sick of hearing about how praise is a bad thing” and that children are being abused and punished and here we are discussing “too much of a good thing” Ack!

    My first thought was, REALLY? Really? So all you hope for, for our children & future generations is that they not be physically abused? That’s the “best” you’ve got?

    I think that it is obvious to me, looking around at our society at large in the U.S. that “rewards” have been detrimental… many children are not being raised with a trust in their inner guidance and are willing to cling to anything that feels like the “pride” their parents had for them, the “reward” for doing a “good job”

    …without that, as adults, people are constantly seeking this external approval, confused and trying to find where they “fit in”.

    It starts SO young too! When I am around parents of babies or toddlers and the child does something “amazing” like walk, climb, blah, you get the idea, and the parents or adults around them begin to clap & smile, the child usually completely loses the focus & determination they had… they end up falling, stopping… praise is a distraction at best!! Is walking really that amazing? We all do it! Do you think that without our “encouragement” our children would crawl forever? Come on!

    I am not saying that smiling in joy & enjoying the moment with your child is crazy… but maybe just enjoy their joy without making it about us🙂 by hijacking the moment!

    December 2, 2011
    • Thanks for the response, Nadja! After this realization and my own shift, it did become nauseating to go to the park, basketball practice, or really talk to most mainstream parents about our children. “Good job!” “Good jumping!” “Great painting!” Oy. We’re just not being straight with our kids. It’s continuous stream of knee jerk petting. Do our kids really feel like we’re connecting or paying attention? It took far more connection, presence, and creativity (and honesty!) to respond in a ‘real’ way.

      December 2, 2011
    • you are so right Nadjimama, all that praise from birth on conforms to classic behavioral conditioning. it’s pretty darn challenging, if not impossible, to raise an individual with all the conditioning we are unwittingly subjecting them to.

      December 3, 2011
      • Archana Ananthaswamy Vasisht #

        Barb, Sarah,

        All those traditional parents, who find “it pretty darn challenging, if not impossible” to parent unconditionally, may simply be admiring the job you’ve been able to accomplish as a parent. Your kids are pure potential but you could have caused them damage had you not been a conscious and connected parent. And if this admiration is what the traditional mama is trying to express- to throw up and scream, without understanding her intent, is harsh judgment.

        And so, yes, even though good-jobbing kids is not necessary, it is necessary not to be bad-jobbing traditional parents by scorning upon them!

        To inspire people to live and let live a self-directed life, you first have to accept them for who they are- just like you accept your husbands, wives and kids for who they are! Or you could continue to isolate yourself and live in a Utopian bubble.

        On praise and pride,

        Praise: Barb, you usually sell your RE conference tickets saying, “It’s a great group of intelligent, free-thinking people”, that you and Quinn are fiercely independent etc. etc.. Sarah, you just called Elijah your “sweet baby” on FB last night. Are these sentiments meant to be hidden from your kids ?Qualifiers are nothing but a form of praise. Do you really think if your kids read this, they would feel compelled to be sweet/ fiercely independent every day of their lives because mama said so?

        Pride:I feel genuine pride when I introduce my kids to someone, simply because my kids and I are connected. I also feel pride when they have accomplished something they have set out to accomplish. You can call it rejoicing, reveling, or whatever the heck you want to call it. To me it’s pride, not because I had anything to do with their victories but because these are my kids and they created their own happiness.

        December 7, 2011
        • Archana, I am sorry you feel bashed by my comments on praise and pride and, while that certainly is not my intent, I cannot control how others react to my heartfelt thoughts. (What I really wish right now is that I could give you a hug and talk to you in person because I really like you!) I know I have no desire to simply agree with folks just to fit in, especially when it comes to things that are important to me and have allowed me to alter my life so much.

          Without a longer conversation with you to ascertain more of what you are thinking here, I am sensing that what this has morphed to is a discussion of semantics.

          First, my kids absolutely know how great I think they are. They know this even when they fuck up. They know this even when they are feeling really badly about something. This is different than the praise or pride we are talking about in this blog post, where praise and pride are used, both consciously and unconsciously, as behavioral conditioning tools that alter future behavior.

          Second, I know that my kids consider my thoughts, opinions and feelings when they speak to me or are in connection with me but their consideration of me (and themself and others) comes from a mutual respect and not from a FEAR that I will think badly of them, punish them, ostracize them, withhold love, etc.

          How do I know this? Because I have never REWARDED their “good” thoughts or actions or PUNISHED their “bad” behavior. REWARDS they have never received include “good job!” or allowance for doing chores (they got allowance just to spend and not tied to pleasing me), or special treats (they got those whenever they wanted them), for example. Punishments they have never received include time outs, spankings, threats, withholding of activities or special privileges.

          December 8, 2011
        • Hi Archana!

          Thanks so much for your comments. I do understand given the responses that we’ve received on this that some of it is semantics. What I’m referring to is the common usage of the term ‘pride.’ Of course, we cannot know what every person feels internally when they think of or say, “I’m proud of you.” Only you can know that. It is the intention behind the words that I’m getting at here and the way that words that are deemed positive can be used to manipulate behaviors and alter children’s intentions with as much detriment as punishment.

          And so, yes, I show and speak my unconditional love for my children to them and to the world. It is unconditional. It is not based on their hockey playing, report card, manners, or decisions. I have opinions, ideas, and thoughts that I share with them but my love is not based on their application of them. If we are ‘proud’ of something, does it not mean that in the opposite situation we would not be proud? Is that not conditional approval that affects future behaviors/choices?

          I write these posts based on my own evolving understanding- what has helped me to come to a more peaceful place with myself and with my children. It is not with the intent of offending or even changing others. This has been a long road covered in a relatively short time. I could isolate myself more effectively by not sharing or discussing at all. Certainly how these thoughts and ideas are applied (if at all) looks different for everyone based on a multitude of different factors.

          I do love the willingness of everyone to come out and toss ideas around. Without these types of challenging discussions, I may not have opened these doors in my mind at all. Playing with ideas is like stretching!

          December 8, 2011
  2. I loved this article! I’ve felt that same aversion when I hear people say they’re proud of their kids, but I didn’t put much thought into why I felt that way. Having felt for most of my life like someone out of step with everyone else, anyway, I just chalked it up to yet another way I reject the way “others” do certain things. But this article clearly explains why some of us feel that aversion, that nausea, and I am reassured and encouraged. If I don’t speak up about something I see or hear, now at least I’ve got the words to articulate my feelings and that is such a relief.

    December 2, 2011
    • Thanks, mlesoing! I’m glad that our post resonated in a way that you can now put words to your feelings. I know that it is important to my experience to be able to reconcile my heart and mind.

      December 2, 2011
    • I don’t think our job as praise-resisters is to explain to everyone around us why we don’t resonate with the words or actions of praise. we can make huge shifts simply through the way we treat and engage with our children and those close to us.

      December 3, 2011
  3. audry #

    Wow, the clarity in this article has left me a little speechless. I am able to recognize that I still do subconsciously seek approval and therefore project that onto my son. I am inspired to make an effort somehow to become more conscious of this behavior and undo/uproot it. Thank you.

    December 2, 2011
    • Wonderful, Audry! It is very powerful how our own experiences and feelings about ourselves are magnified by and projected onto our children. We can only change ourselves and that is a seriously empowering awareness. I’m interested in continuing this conversation with you so keep sharing!

      December 2, 2011
    • I think you will notice rapid changes that you will like, once you make the conscious shift!

      December 3, 2011
  4. Amy #

    Oh I so struggled with all of this when I was initially presented with it, too. I do appreciate Alfie Kohn…

    And that’s where my experience with all of this has taken me… it is okay and enjoyable to appreciate!

    I can experience the natural enthusiasm I have for my children, their growth and achievements, my life, the joys of others … whatever and speak to it directly, honestly… instead of having it be motivated to control or motivate or whatever.

    In between learning that *evaluative* praise can be as damaging as punishment and learning that descriptive praise and appreciative praise are natural, desirable ways to communicate I felt utterly stuck on this topic. I was zapped because I felt all praise was bad; this is not the case. As with all else, it is the intention and motivation backing it along with the type that contributes to the results.

    Now, I breathe a sigh of relief in sharing joy with my family in expressing pure, honest appreciation and neutral observation of their skills, abilities, or activities so they (1) feel my love as I feel moved to “authentically” express it when it arises and (2) can make their own evaluations about themselves. Their self-talk is way more important than anything I say… even if at times I may want it to be otherwise.🙂

    December 2, 2011
    • Your comment really adds clarity, Amy. So many people wonder if they can say anything to their kids without manipulating them in some way. It all comes down to intention. We are often unaware of the subversive intentions of our comments to our kids. I have found myself in a place of true connection, honesty, and presence with my kids when I reconnect with how I’m actually feeling.

      Do we not also do this with other people in our lives? Every year, instead of a New Year’s resolution, I choose a word. A couple of years ago, it was ‘truth.’ It came from this revelation of establishing an honest relationship with my children and that year spread to my other relationships as well. It has been a tremendous change within me that has rippled outward.

      December 2, 2011
  5. You have made me think hard. Someday, as I gasp for my last precious moments of life, I hope that my daughter or husband will take my hand and say to me, “I’m so proud of you.”

    December 2, 2011
    • Why would you desire the approval of others at the completion of your time here? I really feel in everything that I do that my life should be a fulfillment of my core beliefs, desires, and dreams as I hope for my children. If I need the approval of others, am I not being true to myself?

      December 2, 2011
    • intriguing thoughts Left on Walnut, thanks for posting. How would you feel, if on your death bed, instead of ‘I’m so proud of you,’ your beloved family said ‘I am so grateful you were my mother, or my wife.’ or ‘the time I have spent with you has meant so much to me,’ or ‘I will cherish the wonderful memories I have of our time together long after you are gone.’ How do these things make you feel? Different? Worse? Better?

      December 3, 2011
      • Amy #

        Ahhh… I wonder if sometimes we get caught up in words, you know? And that for some saying “I’m proud of you or good job” is really coming from that appreciative place inside of themselves. That no ill intent is present and so such conversations as these feel challenging. Even outright attacking, as mentioned in other comments. Just a thought. and some love…🙂

        Not that having these conversations isn’t valuable because it allows us to dig deep; just seeing the inherent value in honoring where each person is and that we each get to figure out our intent. Sometimes things aren’t as black and white as they initially seem…

        December 9, 2011
        • oh yeah, I agree completely and totally and unconditionally! words on a page are so limiting that I sometimes wonder why we keep trying at all. face to face, touch, eyes connecting, listening deeply, those are the ways we like to communicate, right? love back to you.

          December 9, 2011
        • The written word… Tone is so often perceived by the reader’s current state of mind rather than the writer’s set intent (and sometimes they are the same!).

          The challenge, though uncomfortable in the moment, is helpful for me to have internal dialogues. I am all about challenging myself and so I try to do the same for others. I understand that being challenged can sometimes feel like an attack and it is not my intention.

          December 9, 2011
  6. Dena #

    I couldn’t agree more. I often wonder if this pride comes from adults encouraging their children to do things they wished they would or could have been able to do as a kid. Hence when the kid does something, they feel it is their accomplishment.

    I remember from my childhood that my brother was a very talented artist. My father never appreciated this skill and encouraged him to pursue sports. Of course he had no interest, and failed miserably. I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, and was able to do things that made me happy. As a result I accomplised more simply because I was able to do something I loved.

    I agree that I always feel strange when someone would comment “You must be so proud.” I never really understood why it bothered me, but after reading this it makes more sense. From now on when someone says this to me I am going to respond, “No. Just happy for them.” Because in reality I love watching them passionately follow something they enjoy. No trophies could take the place of them pursuing something that makes them happy.

    December 2, 2011
    • That’s the question, right? If you’re not proud, what are you? I value a deeper level of connection versus a sense of ownership. My relationship with my kids is not based on my own judgment or anyone else’s. I can appreciate them, celebrate with them, and, yes, be happy for them. You make an interesting point, Dena, about parents living vicariously. I do think that pride and praise are often methods of coaxing children toward the things that make parents the most comfortable- a means of ‘steering,’ if you will.

      December 2, 2011
    • Dena, I think a great deal of the praise parents and others give to each other has just become the culturally accepted way of showing them that you like what they have done. I think it’s pretty innocent, for the most part. Like with many things however, they are worth dissection and rethinking … so that we can upgrade, evolve and noticeably improve our lives, relationships and environments.

      December 3, 2011
  7. I LOVE this! I will be sharing! Thanks

    December 2, 2011
  8. 'George' #

    I had to think about this concept for a while. I am of Japanese descent, born in Tokyo and High School there. My wife is Turkish, born and raised. Both cultures are very old, with knowledge and wisdom passed down from ten thousand or more years. I don’t think either culture (I speak fluent Turkish and lived there for several years) uses the term often, if at all towards children. Both cultures, however, use the concept of shame.

    In our cultures of birth, (we live in the USA now) actions can be termed ‘shameful’ or we are to avoid shame to our family at all cost. I have thought that this is a good thing, something useful that is missing in the youth of the USA that feel they can do anything regardless of the consequences toward society, family, and selves.

    Barb argues in her first point above that pride is wrong. It is ‘coercive’, ‘affects future behavior’, and that the children are ‘no longer making decisions based on their personal desires but rather on the response of those around them’. I would like to argue that it is our responsibility as parents to be somewhat coercive, to affect the behavior of our children, and to have our intent factor into their decision.

    My wife and I come from cultures that have an express intent toward influencing children from from early ages. If the USA uses pride to influence children, is this necessarily a bad thing?

    (No personal attack on the original author (barb?) is intended, simply intellectual discussion. Also, for the sake of brevity, I must truncate my arguments to prevent this from becoming a ten-page response. My apologies.)

    December 2, 2011
    • Thank you so much for the comment, George. It is very interesting to consider this from a different cultural perspective. It was my portion of the post to which you are referring and I take no offense to healthy discussion. I’d like to refer you to Nadja’s comment on this post because she addresses some of what you are talking about.

      Why are we coercing or manipulating our children at all? This is a pivotal consideration and one that is addressed well by Kohn in his book. Could you explain in what situation you feel that coercion and manipulation are ‘our responsibility as parents’?

      December 2, 2011
    • George, I’d love to see a real discussion here on the pros of coercion, praise and shame and punishment. As a parent who sees these manipulative tools as cons only, I am all ears (eyes, actually) and ready to read what you have to say, with some demonstrative examples of how you communicate with your children. Thanks! (And don’t worry, no matter what you say will not offend me! I promise!)

      December 3, 2011
    • George – good point, that it’s our responsibility to be somewhat coercive when it comes to rearing our children. Whether we use praise, shame or a combination of both to take our naturally selfish, manipulative children and turn them into giving, free-thinking, independent adults really shouldn’t matter.

      Personally, I DO take some pride in my children’s accomplishments, behavior, and talents. Compliments given to me or to my children do reflect on my skills as a parent and negative feed-back brings along a little shame to help me find better ways to rear them.

      Overall, tho, I think sensible parents may simply be guilty of misusing the words ‘proud’ or ‘pride’ because what we really mean is that our children bring us happiness when they do well, choose rightly, or fail gracefully.

      While I don’t want my girls to grow up and gauge their own happiness by my reaction to their choices/activities, I certainly don’t want them to have a complete disregard for what Mom thinks. That smacks of an extreme disconnect and selfishness that I don’t want to instill, by any means.

      December 3, 2011
      • I agree it sounds pretty darn challenging to consider that your child of any age could self direct without any regard for ‘what mom thinks.’ This is a magical dichotomy however, because when a child is free to choose their thoughts and actions, knowing that their mom has created an environment for them that honors this freedom, they naturally and wholeheartedly consider those around them, including mom, when behaving or choosing right action. The difference here, in this dissection, is the motivation. Would you prefer your child choose to act with you in mind of his own self motivated volition or choose to act with you in mind out of fear of your approval, punishment, etc.?

        December 4, 2011
      • George and Carey,

        There is a fundamental issue that underlies this conversation: and that is whether we are aware of and support the innate benevolence, curiousity, and natural growth of the child or if we have the belief that children are here for us to mold into something/someone that will, at the age of 18, be produced into society. It is our inflicted pressure and expectations that create the child that feels repressed and resists, acts out, or withdraws. Manipulation has been proven time and again to backfire on the authority and to negatively affect the child in every way. As parents, we are here to support and facilitate the child that comes to us without expectation. Only when I was willing to do this was my mind completely blown by the ways my children approach and interact with the world.

        December 7, 2011
      • Amy #

        Ahhhh or maybe it isn’t our responsibility to be *coercive* when it comes to rearing our children, but it is our responsibility to be intentionally influential (since we’re influencing them anyway). Or maybe I’m just getting caught up in the words.🙂

        December 9, 2011
        • ah yes, intentionally influential, that we are indeed. I think one the most important gifts we can give both ourselves and our children is that of role modeling. Am I the role model I wish my children to learn from? Am I living a life fully alive, with maximum authenticity, always learning, always moving in the directions that allow growth, evolution, goodness, fairness, whatever is important to me… or am I not?

          December 9, 2011
        • Ha! Amy you said this so well and so concisely! 🙂 By intention I mean in clear conscience with full awareness of the impact of the tremendous influence I wield as a parent- looking at the big picture rather than steering a particular situation or acting out of fear of the future.

          December 9, 2011
  9. mbh #

    I understand this and agree with most of this. Certainly, I don’t appreciate praise as a form of manipulation? I would love to say I don’t do it as a form of motivation, but I’m not so sure about that.

    Here are my sticky points on this issue:

    1. Sometimes, I am terrifically amazed at my son. I am so moved at something he may do that I blurt out, “Wow, that was amazing!” I don’t doing this out of a sense of motivation or reward; I am simply expressiing my authentic feelings of glory. Does this have an effect on him? Sure. Will he try to amaze me again because I had that reaction? Maybe. According to the opinion expressed in this post, does that make my authentic expression of joy in response to him wrong?

    2. If you have a child who is indoctrinated by a lifetime and culture of reward and punishment, you will see the consequence of that, which is often a child that seems to look outwards for what he “should” do. So, my desire as a parent is to have him re-discover his own inner compass and belief in himself. When I do see him trusting his own instincts and taking actions to explore things in his own way, is it wrong for me to point out to him (and celebrate with him) that he is breaking free of the old thinking and finding his own voice? Is it wrong to praise true independence, especially while he is disentangling himself from a culture of reward for doing the “right” thing, whatever that is? It sounds like an easy question and answer but I think it more complex than that. It is certainly a paradox.

    December 2, 2011
    • mbh #

      In the first paragraph, I did not mean to put in the question mark at the end of “Certainly, I don’t appreciate praise as a form of manipulation?” It should have been, “Certainly, I don’t appreciate praise as a form of manipulation.”

      December 2, 2011
    • mbh #

      Even tonight, when we were in the car coming home from an event, my son was retelling a story that was so funny. I felt so much joy at his joy and sense of humor. I said, “I just love who you are!” Is that judgment? Perhaps. Of course I would love who he is no matter what, yet at that moment, I felt moved to share my appreciation with him. I often share with my friends how much I care for and appreciate them. I’m I rewarding them? Is it wrong?

      I’m not meaning to challenge the ideas here; I’m just exploring what is the gray area for me.

      December 2, 2011
      • Hi mbh! This is just me, but I would be honored and LOVE to see you get a little more comfortable with challenge and give up any discomfort with ‘picking on Barb’! Remember, when all think alike then no one is thinking.

        Certainly there are nuances and fine lines that exist when we engage with others and share or show our approval, joy, etc. As Sarah said, the energetic quality of your engagement is the determining factor. YOU are the one who knows whether your words are geared toward shifting or conforming behavior, or whether you simply want to share your exuberance and bright and happy feelings. I don’t think anyone, certainly not I, would want a world where we blandly went through life as robots, not expressing our feelings or opinions or thoughts with each other – we always owe this to ourselves, if not those around us. “I am so happy you did that” can be either coercive (said to shift or conform behavior) or simply an authentic expression of joy.

        The heart of this blog post is focus on the use of praise as a day-in, day-out tool to reinforce behavior. It works, as George pointed out above, but it is manipulative, dysfunctional, abusive and results in mindless hoop jumping instead of empowered thought and action.

        December 3, 2011
      • nadja #

        MBH, it may just be semantics for me…but I hear you asking about what is the “right” or “wrong” way to authentically interact with your child… I find it useful to ask myself if my interactions are “helpful” or not… there is no “formula”🙂 I guess the whole right/wrong, black/white and good/bad are judgements that do not really seem useful to me in life in general… I am not trying to be “knit picky” it just sounds as if you are being hard on yourself, and that can sometimes keep us from connecting authentically.

        December 3, 2011
      • mbh #

        Nadja, Yes. I think you are right about not making it right/wrong, black/white, blah or blah. That is really what I was getting at. The idea that was proposed in the article and this blog seemed to be too black and white for my own comfort. I question where those lines are, in general, but I use my own stories as my examples. I think your suggestion to ‘ask myself if my interactions are “helpful” or not”‘ is a terrific approach.

        Barb & Sarah, yes. I like the idea of evaluating our responses based on our intentions, and yet, I would venture to say that good intentions are behind a whole lot of those parents who have “I’m proud of my ____” bumberstickers or who say to their kid at the park, “I’m proud of you” after their kid masters a new skill they have been working on, like self-swinging. I certainly don’t think that the parent is trying to take credit for their child’s act. In fact, it could be that the parent is giving all the credit to their child. “I’m proud of you; you did it!” not “I’m proud of you; I did it!”

        I did look up the words “pride” and “proud” in the dictionary, and quite frankly, I was surprised how so many of the definitions really did have to do with oneself. I think in many ways, I have not really known the true definition of that word. However, there was a definition that did resonate with me: highly gratifying to the feelings or self-esteem.

        OK, Sarah, so perhaps your beef is with a parent getting their self-esteem from their child’s behavior. In which case, I get it.

        On the other hand, I can totally relate to the definition of “highly gratifying to the feelings.” I think about my kid in college and I do feel proud of him (but not pride in myself for him.) I did not get him into college; he did. I did not want him to go to college; he did. I am proud because he knows what he wants to do (and be) and he is doing (and being) it. It is an amazing and delightful experience to watch your children grow up and find their own way in life. Maybe proud is not the most appropriate word for my feeings. Maybe “inspired” or “impressed” are more appropriate.

        December 4, 2011
        • I don’t think what you are really feeling is pride in this example. You think you are and I totally get that, and I understand why. The word is ubiquitous in our culture and we accept it as easily as we do the air we breathe… until we begin to dissect the quality of our air and how it can be altered and improved. What you are feeling in your example is joy and happiness in their joy and happiness, right? If you are instead feeling happy that he is doing a culturally approved action that gives you an opportunity to boast about it with yourself or others, then pride is a good word to describe that. does this make sense?

          December 4, 2011
      • nadja #

        I think that a huge part of this is that in our culture we feel like we HAVE to say something to someone who has “accomplished” something… as though the other person will not be fulfilled enough basking in their own joy of accomplishment… we set up this dynamic relationally through cultural conditioning… the more we “good job” our children the more we support the external conditioning, again, distracting them from their own feelings or introspection…

        I bet there are kids out there saying so themselves as I write this “my mom is not proud of me because she does not have ____ bumper-sticker”😦

        My hope is that with an authentic joyful relationship with my kids, they will KNOW & FEEL & SENSE all that they are…

        Maybe shift the idea… Do we NEED our kids to tell us how wonderful, or funny or smart WE are? Do we NEED them to be PROUD of us? Is that really helpful?

        December 6, 2011
        • It is critical that you do the internal work on yourself that is required as you examine your own needs for approval, pride, etc! Hopefully your kids, with much less psychological baggage than you, will not only respond well in the absence of ‘I’m proud of you’ but be grateful that the pressure is off to make you proud.

          I went through a period with my daughter when she was about 9 years old when she would ask me why I never said I was proud of her. I suppose she had been influenced by her mainstream friends, books which she read constantly and what she was seeing in movies, etc. She was truly pained by my lack of acknowledged pride in her. I admit it was a challenging and difficult time for me as I tried talking to her, getting her to understand that I was truly happy for her sense of accomplishment, etc. A few times I even had to use the words ‘I am proud of you’ just so she could hear them and assuage the dissonance she was feeling about this. It passed however and more reflection and maturity replaced her experimental need to hear the words her friends were hearing.

          December 7, 2011
    • You raise great questions here, mbh. Here is my take:
      1. Authentic is authentic. Coercive is coercive. When we are in touch with our own authentic selves and unattached to expectations for our children, our responses follow in an honest, connected fashion. It’s when our responses are contrived, coated, or geared toward achieving a predicted behavior that we run into issues.
      2. I had to read this several times. 🙂 You’re right, it’s complex. BUT here’s my take: Yes. It is wrong to praise. You are still trying to steer him, change him, motivate him in another direction- one that YOU deem to be more appropriate, fulfilling, etc. He continues to follow someone else’s lead and not be entirely connected to his own compass of personal desires and self motivation. Because he is ‘breaking out,’ these are interesting conversations to have and can and should include your perspective on the unfoldings but praise and pride are absolutely irrelevant and detrimental (especially to achieve your goal of having him be self-directing).

      My advice would be to turn inward. By understanding our desire to change another, we can work on our own issues. Often when I do this, the perspective that it brings changes everything when I look back out.

      December 2, 2011
      • mbh #

        I think that is a great point, Sarah, and I really am going to try to be more mindful around this particular issue. Self-reflection is a good thing and I do want to explore how much I am trying to motivate him to go in the direction I want to see him go.

        Not to pick on Barb (really), but I remember reading an article about her and Quinn. It talked about how Quinn decided to go to high school and, of course, she supported that decision and he enrolled. However, when he dropped out his senior year, she threw him a party with all their friends to celebrate his return to freedom. Of course, I don’t know how much of this article was hyperbole, but I think it points out (especially as it pertains to encouraging our kids to follow their hearts) how it can be particularly easy to reward and praise them when we think we see them choosing freedom and self-direction.

        December 2, 2011
  10. Liz #

    I believe that the overwhelming number of parents are trying to do the right thing by their children and that regardless of what Dictionary.com has to say about the definition of ‘proud’ that what most parents are really saying when they say that they feel ‘proud’ of their children’s achievements is that they are feeling ‘joyously content that their child has chosen to work in the manner they have and has managed to do what ever has been done’….don’t you…..I’m not really sure I understand the point of this post….its seems its mostly about semantics. Although I am happy to be wrong. Could someone let me know what I have missed, please.

    December 6, 2011
    • Liz #

      Ooooh, perhaps I have just realised my own answer…you are talking about using the clause ‘I am so proud of you’ as encouragement and so it is coercive, not as a ‘wow you’re amazing…look at all you’ve done! statement in its own right. I totally get the praise thing, but I do enjoy being able to share my kid’s delight in achievement. I also object to celebrating mediocrity. Recently as a birthday party I was told that if all children did not receive a gift during every game they played they would be upset….really! My son’s junior soccer team gets a medallion just for playing (?!) and some parents purchase them for their kids even though they can’ attend – WOW! Where does it end….

      December 6, 2011
      • Dena #

        I totally agree with you Liz. I remember when my boys were in martial arts and everyone recieved the same trophy or belts regardless of effort. I remember kids totally bored out of their minds and not participating at all, but in the end they recieve the same accolades that the kids who worked extremely hard did. We had several kids with learning dissabilities who worked hard and I had no problem with the accolades they recieved even though they may not have accomplished as much as the others because I knew that they worked extremely hard to overcome many obstacles to participate. It was such a joy to watch their achievements. But it frustrated me to watch kids who had no interest in participating recieving trophies and belts simply because their parent paid the monthly tuition and bought the trophy/belt. I remember a parent asking me how I got my boys to learn their forms each graduation. I told her I didn’t do anything to make them learn their forms, they simply learned them because they enjoyed the sport and knew if they didn’t put forth the effort I wouldn’t pay for it. It would have been a waste of our time and money to continue if they weren’t going to work hard. I don’t understand why parents continue to drag kids from activity to activity when that kid has no interest in being there.

        I also wonder how kids who do achieve a lot without much effort are affected by praise. My children are all very unique, but I have one child that things come very easy too. I often see people praising him for something that was easy for him. Does this really help him? What is going to happen when he runs into that thing that doesn’t come easy? Will he push through and work hard, or just not have the skills to understand that sometimes you have to work harder to accomplish something? There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with accomplishing something difficult that I think many kids aren’t experiencing.

        December 6, 2011
        • Well you already know that I believe everyone is affected negatively by praise, hence the blog post. To comment on your concern regarding whether your son will ever be motivated to push through something that is difficult for him – does it matter? In your experience it’s beneficial because things are difficult for you. For him, a person for whom everyone comes easily, well that sort of sounds like a life in ‘flow’ and one that most could only fantasize about. I bet you could learn alot about how he accomplishes this easy state by clearing your mind and just observing. Our kids are here to teach us, be a good student!

          December 7, 2011
          • Liz #

            Tell me, teach me, please, please, please.. if you have the time and stamina, of course….because I am very new to this…and open too….but I am a questioner….xx

            December 7, 2011
            • If I have anything to teach you Liz, it’s my advice that you metaphorically throw everything you think you know about education, wisdom, motivation and life out the window for … say, one month. Don’t let any of the old thoughts about how all this works come in. Instead, watch your son. Immerse yourself in his joy, his ease. Take advice from him. Ask him for advice. Do what he says, see how you feel. I confidently predict that you will learn so much about how the world REALLY works – that world of ease, competence, confidence, no worry, and how to move in the direction of what feels good to you and nothing else. This is where it all lies, in this feeling. Honor this in your son, don’t put energy into worrying that he is not like everyone else.

              December 7, 2011
              • Liz #

                OK…experiment underway…will let you know how I go…thank-you🙂 xx

                December 7, 2011
                • oh yes, please keep me posted! I will be thinking about you.

                  December 7, 2011
      • I know what you mean here – we live in such a praise driven culture (all based on behavior modification techniques) that there is no limit to what is praised or rewarded (or punished). Remove all that and just live! Give your children the freedom to just live. There are no mistakes, no failures, just grand experiments in discovering how one’s personal world works (and we do all create our own personal world). Your child will naturally ask for celebrations, skip the rest. With my kids I found that celebrations more naturally centered around things like the first campfire breakfast of the spring or the first peach that was edible on the tree or a visit from a friend or relative we’d not seen in ages, not on silly things like personal achievement – those are just way too common and an expected part of our day to day lives.

        December 7, 2011
  11. nadja #

    http://www.bostonmagazine.com/scripts/print/article.php?asset_idx=329920

    I thought this article had some relevance… and it’s “mainstream”😉

    December 6, 2011
    • Wow, there is a lot going on in this article and a whole lotta dysfunction. I am willing to dissect it and have a conversation if anyone else is. Frankly there is so much here to talk about I don’t even know where to begin!!

      December 7, 2011
      • I think this is a whole other blog post! 🙂

        December 7, 2011
      • nadja #

        🙂

        December 7, 2011
  12. Archana Ananthaswamy Vasisht #

    Okay, first, Barb, e-hugs🙂. I like you too.

    Onto why I felt bashed, I didn’t. But I did feel like you bashed some of my friends. Traditional parents but some truly amazing people.

    Sarah, I hear you say time and again that we’re all amazing and ordinary, and yet somehow it didn’t sound like you meant it when you spoke about those not-so-enlightened moms at hockey games!

    Barb, you only expressed what you were feeling, and I guess what I felt on reading it was disheartened that ordinary people living their ordinary lives in the only way they know were being judged by unschoolers.

    Sarah, yes, I read through all comments and realized the distinction you were making between contrived praise and genuine praise. But sometimes, the shades are gray. Another facebook post from you, “Sadie won the calendar art contest at the dentist’s. A calendar with her art on it and a gift card to follow”. I instantly felt happy for her. But as I read about the reward in the second sentence, I was surprised it even occurred to you to post it. You must’ve received remarks and likes for it surely. Would that combined with your own elation not bear any effect on Sadie’s future art endeavors ? To me it’s the same thing as saying, “Neelabh just aced his SATs! Full college scholarship to follow!”I guess what turned me off was hypocrisy in some form and I was bummed that it came from rethinking!

    My 2 cents, as much as unconditional parenting matters how your child will feel about himself, what also matters is her parents’ thoughts, her parents’ own acceptance (non-judgment not conformity)of the rest of humanity and their own humanitarian deeds beyond the small unit of the family. Barb, for all you know, one of those, “You must be so proud of yourself” moms might have a daughter who is actually considering doing something to help those women trapped in caves in Afghanistan.

    I strongly believe disgust has no place in our hearts (especially towards ordinary, feeling, humans) when we’re trying to facilitate a life of peace and acceptance for our children. But then again you feel what you feel. So what is it that makes you feel nauseated at amazing, ordinary beings is the real question? wow, took all that writing to arrive at that!

    Barb, I’m looking forward to the spring meet-ups!

    December 8, 2011
    • I have come to realize that a great many do-gooders, such as some who might do something for those women in Afghanistan caves, do so, not because it feels good and powerful for them intrinsically but to please another, whether it’s a deity, a parent, a culture, or whatever. I don’t support such endeavors. I support action that comes from a heart center of personal connection, action that is taken because it feels right and true and joyful and important to the person taking the action. If some of those folks are involved in helping the women of Afghanistan, it excites me.

      Now that doesn’t mean I judge anyone or condemn anyone for not living their life the way I do! I support each person, their unique drives and desires for good and right action. My dream is for each person to be able to achieve that which feels authentic and genuine to them. Lackluster participation, mediocre dream fulfillment, all motivated by fear or to please another, is less than. I can feel a societal disgust at the rampant lack of connection people feel and the desperate search for meaning that I see all around me and at the same time hold space for the power of the individual to rise above the sometimes overwhelming conditions and expectations placed upon them. Yes, I can love people, respect them and treat them with dignity and integrity whether they agree with me or not. Now, whether I choose to spend time with them is a different matter.

      Does this make any sense to you?

      December 8, 2011
    • Archana,

      I can see how this post might be perceived as hypocrisy but we’ve already made the distinction between rewarding children with our words, deeds, money, etc. and celebrating their joy with them. Sadie could care less about whether her art was chosen for that calendar. She was super-excited about winning a $25 gift card! So why wouldn’t I share her excitement? The two weren’t really tied at all for her. One liners on my Facebook could be dissected all day. They’re great stepping off points for conversation, I suppose, but not really the whole story when trying to build a case. I wouldn’t presume to think that Neelabh was any less excited about his acing the SATs and getting a full scholarship than you were for him by posting it as your status update.

      While I appreciate your trying to defend your friends, I’m always wary of the feeling of ‘being judged.’ Feeling defensive or judged is a sign that we are not in a place where we feel comfortable and confident with our own choices. Being questioned or challenged by another can solidify our own position or allow for new thoughts to enter and mingle.

      As I said in a recent comment to another thread on this post, I like being challenged (more the feeling of coming out the other side with a new perspective) and that is why I like to talk directly and deeply with others about challenging topics. It is not meant as an attack or belittlement but I am not in control of other’s perceptions nor are you.

      December 9, 2011
      • Archana Ananthaswamy Vasisht #

        Sarah,
        I had overlooked this comment. And I apologize for going after your FB updates. What I was trying to say there was what makes for ‘excitement’ for you could easily be construed as ‘pride’ by the observer. I got too wound up trying to say what I meant.

        But yes, as far as you and Barb getting nauseous, I still don’t see how feelings of nausea for someone else’s actions can stem from a non-judgmental place. And neither do I see how people with the instinct to feel negatively about someone’s possibly well meaning comment be a person in a peaceful place. And yes, I do feel passionately about speaking for my friends whose actions are being judged as nauseating in a blog I’m reading in their absence. Do I feel restless about it? Yes. Will it make me feel nauseous? No. Will I judge you to be a person I need to disassociate with immediately? No. Like mbh said, we all have our stories, and everyone of us needs to be treated from a place of compassion. I would love to say that’s just me but I don’t see how anyone can exist in a place of peace unless.

        I have no qualms about genuine praise or appreciation nor do I disagree with the idea of detriment of reward and punishment. But somehow, the posts reek of rejection of the outside world. And I don’t see integrity in statements like “I accept people for who they are”. “Everyone of us is amazing and ordinary” and such.

        December 9, 2011
  13. Archana Ananthaswamy Vasisht #

    How is calling people’s actions nauseating on a public blog treating them with dignity, Barb?

    Sometimes you have to truly accept people for what they are before you can see how amazing they are…in ways that perhaps you never even thought of before! Walking away from them at the first sign of in congruence sounds like rejection to me.

    And just like you seem to know that most do-gooders are inauthentic, I know that it takes more than wanting your parents’ or God’s or culture’s approval to want to be say, working with children in the slums of India infested with malaria and tuberculosis! Let’s not belittle these people, who have risen over all their personal struggles to make the world a more human place.

    December 8, 2011
    • mbh #

      Archana – yay!

      December 8, 2011
      • Archana and mbh, are you referring to my reference to feeling nausea when folks ask me if I am proud of my children? I’ve said so much here, I am trying to recall what you are referring to and this is all I am remembering right now. Anyway, if it is, it is my feeling of nausea, not calling their actions nauseous. But, as I think about it, I guess I could admit that I do also often feel nauseous when I witness the actions of others, so nevermind.

        I don’t see how my nausea is treating them with a lack of dignity, as I am not insulting them or denegrading them in any way. I keep my wits about me and allow them to be the way they are, just as I would like them to allow me to be the way I am. I do have a right to my feelings though, don’t I? Are you suggesting that I have no right to feel what I feel – that I should deny what feels true for me… just so that …. what? What is accomplished in that? Help me out here with more than accusations, please.

        And I won’t even comment on your do-gooder issue. I will take the high road there.

        December 8, 2011
    • mbh #

      Well, these threads are hard to track regarding to what you are responding. I liked these two statements by Archana:

      “I strongly believe disgust has no place in our hearts (especially towards ordinary, feeling, humans) when we’re trying to facilitate a life of peace and acceptance for our children.”

      “Sometimes you have to truly accept people for what they are before you can see how amazing they are…in ways that perhaps you never even thought of before!”

      I would make those statements for myself.

      I have a hard time relating to strong reactions (like nausea) to others’ actions and statements. I find that my own judgments don’t benefit anyone, including myself, so I prefer to focus my attention on what what feels right to me, to continue my own exploration and growth, but to do so without creating uncomfortable feelings for myself.

      Most certainly, I am not always successful. I just resonate with what I thought Archana was trying to say was that one of her values is to approach life and everyone from a place of compassion. That is not the path for everyone and certainly I would never say it should be. But it is one I prefer to take. It benefits me, my family, my community….

      December 8, 2011
      • I certainly respect your thoughts here! At the risk of adding to the confusion you are feeling about mine, I respectfully disagree with them.

        First, I am obviously completely comfortable with disgust and in fact find it an essential feeling that spurs me on to deeper thinking, reflection and growth. Just because I feel negative or less than ideal happy thoughts from time to time is no cause to make me feel inferior or ill or out of control! Allowing myself the freedom of moving into the darkness of troubling feelings propels me toward positive change that feels good.

        With regard to truly accepting people for what they are before you can see how amazing they are… I am not even sure what this means in relation to our conversation on praise and nausea and disgust. To be clear, my feelings of nausea and disgust are not judgments made about another. They are visceral feelings in response to what I see as a thwarting of human potential. As I said previously, my deepest desire is centered on a maximum thrival state for each person, of any age. While I don’t have any fantasies about making this happen for another, I dream of this in my own perfect world fantasy.

        With regard to judging people… covered in paragraph above. WRT controlling your mind so as to avoid all uncomfortable feelings for yourself: again, I respect your choice and path here, but I find that uncomfortable feelings are a necessary part of life and growth for me. While I believe a center of love for oneself and all of life is essential, I also honor the contrast that is present in the world. Contrast is anything that does not feel grounded in love. Contrast challenges me to think and rethink, dig deeper and try harder. Lack of contrast leads me to complacency and mediocrity, neither of which feel alive and authentic. If I try to make everything feel the same, that troubles me.

        I enjoy the opportunity to have this conversation and am happy you are feeling on a good and right path. Mine is different than yours and I would be honored to have you respect it as I respect yours.

        December 9, 2011
      • mbh #

        Barb,

        I completely honor your path! I apologize if it came across as me telling you that your way was wrong. As I said, “I would make those statements for myself.” I also said, “This is not the path for everyone and certainly I would never say it should be.”

        I was just talking about my own incongruence with the feelings of nausea, not saying you are wrong in your feelings or process. Most certainly, we are all moved to and through self-exploration in different ways and that is a good thing. How you do it is really no business of mine. My comment was really about me, clarifying my reaction to Archana.

        But seriously, I think we have gotten way off topic, as regards this thread. I had an interesting realization while laying in bed last night, contemplating this particular topic and my own way of living in compassion (for myself & others). I will post it separately.

        December 9, 2011
        • oh good, I am looking forward to it! I have had some revelations myself… thanks to the discomfort, so thank you for that! love to you, truly and deeply. without the ability to be honest, to communicate openly and without fear, we have very little.

          December 9, 2011
  14. Amy #

    “As I said previously, my deepest desire is centered on a maximum thrival state for each person, of any age. While I don’t have any fantasies about making this happen for another, I dream of this in my own perfect world fantasy.” – Barb
    🙂 Like… I think we have a similar fantasy, even if we have our own unique ways of bringing it about… the many flavors of life!

    December 9, 2011
    • and, duh, each of us is unique, by design. why would we ever want to change that? which leads me to wonder…. why do we live in a world where everyone should be the same, receive the same education, think the same thoughts, believe the same things…???

      December 9, 2011
  15. mbh #

    I was laying in bed last night, thinking about a certain person in my life. She is sort of a mentor/mother figure to me. I love her deeply and yet I sometimes have a strong reaction to her. Most often, I feel like she is expecting me to be someone I am not, although she has certainly never said that.

    As I explored that feelng a little more last night, asking where this feeling came from, I was stunned to discover that it is because she often shares with me her approval of what I do, and very specifically her approval is in alignment with her beliefs and values. When I don’t act in alignment with her beliefs and desires, there is no expression of approval; in fact the silence is huge. Through her subtle approvals here and silence there, I get a very clear message of who she wants me to be (although I think she would deny it.) With nary a word of disapproval from her, I often feel like I come up short because who I am is not in total alignment with those things she would want for me, or more specifically, her vision of how remarkable I can be.

    So, continuing that thought, I became acutely aware that my experience with this woman mirrors my experience with my mother when I was younger. My mother never explicitly expressed her disapproval, but I was acutely aware of how (who) she wanted me to be. Again, I often felt like I was being pushed in a direction that I didn’t really want to go.

    “You are a wonderful artist (like me.)” – Me thinking: But I don’t want to be an artist. I want to do art, sometimes.

    “You are a great leader. These women need you.” – Me thinking: But I don’t want to be a leader all the time. I want to quit when I want to quit.

    “You are so articulate.” – Me thinking: No. I’m not and don’t make me talk when I don’t want.

    I think some of this reaction comes from some cultural belief that we should not “waste our talents.” I hate that idea. I’m great at filing and typing, too, but that doesn’t mean that I want to become the world’s best secretary. In fact, I think I have become more interested in doing things I am not good at, just so I can feel the wonderful satifaction of fully enjoying something, alone.

    So, in my exploration of this, I have realized that this feeling of push/pull with regard to my mother-figures DOES relatd to their expressions of approval and my resultant sense of being less than in some way.

    It is a wonderful discovery, because now that I understand it, I can have more compassion with myself, realizing that this is a feeling I don’t have to own. And, I can have more compassion for them because I can see that their actions and beliefs about who I am are theirs alone. I do know that they act from a place of love and appreciation. I can take in that love without taking in the rest of the baggage. Eyes wide open.

    December 9, 2011
    • this revelation brought tears to my eyes. I so agree with with the overwhelming pressure to not ‘waste our talents,’ all seen through another’s eyes and not with the unconditional love and support each person needs to inquire deeply, experiment and thrive.

      how will you treat the next round of pride from this person, knowing that you will likely face the cold silence afterwards?

      December 9, 2011
      • mbh #

        How will I treat the next round of pride? I hope that because I can now see it for what it is–their stuff, not mine–I will choose to connect with what is behind their pride, which is their love for me. (Their approval may be conditional, but their love is unconditional.) I don’t imagine any words are necessary for that process. I will let them be where they are and I will be where I am, but this time, I will be awake.

        December 9, 2011
        • being awake is good, feels good, feels nice. I am not REALLY meaning to be argumentative here, but as I see the world, conditional approval does not mesh with unconditional love. And I feel like this pokes at the heart of what we’re talking about here: pride, praise, reward and punishment are tools for conditional behavioral modeling. Unconditional love and support are always, not most of the time or always except when, respecting and honoring the journey, needs and desires of the third party. In fact, this is when unconditional love and support are MOST valuable: when in disagreement, distress, dis-ease, conflict.

          Would it be ok to know that this person did not love you unconditionally, but rather conditionally? Would it be good for you to know squarely where you stand and move on from there? I am not saying this is the case between you and this person, only what it suggests to me.

          December 9, 2011
        • I grew reading your story, mbh. Thank you for sharing. These feelings of how we respond to other’s perceptions, judgments, and desires for us has been coming up a lot for me recently and the awareness changes almost everything! There is a tremendous sense of contentment that I have found in being completely comfortable with who I am and, for that matter, who other people are. Their paths and desires are their own and mine, my own. It’s not over. I know it’s not. But I know the capacity for growth and I know I can always feel better, know more, consider more deeply.

          December 9, 2011
      • mbh #

        Barb,

        We just have different opinions or perspectives. I absolutely believe that unconditional love can exist in the presence of conditional approval, if for no other reason than that people can love you but have misguided ideas on how to express it. Even so, I don’t have to approve of what you do, who you are, or what you believe, in order to love you. Why should I assume that I am loved unconditionally only when someone else doesn’t judge what I am doing or who I am, or wishes for me to change?

        It is not my desire to change anyone else. The only person who I have control over is myself, so that is where I focus my energy. I don’t need anyone else to get this lesson (about pride); it is useful to me in how I move forward with my children and those around me that I love. It most certainly has woken me up to how I can interface with my own child in another way.

        Would it be OK to to know that this person did not love me unconditionally? Hmmm… I guess what matters more to me is if I love them unconditionally. When I do, I can move out of a place of hurt and desiring them to act and behave differently. So an example, my bio dad, probably does not love me unconditionally. We were estranged for almost 20 years because of some serious family dysfunction. Over that period of time, I went through every kind of emotional angst possible. I came out the other end of it, around age 40 with the deepest and most profound sense of compassion for him. It is almost impossible to explain but it is true. At this point, his feelings for me or about me do not matter. Do we interface all the time? No. Are we alike? No. Do we believe the same things. No. Does any of that matter to me? No. What I do know is that I have a deep, loving peaceful place in my heart for him. That is what I would call unconditional love and what I call compassion.

        So, I’m not sure if I answered your question or not, but there it is.

        December 9, 2011
        • yes, I do know what you mean here about conditional approval being misguided love. My parents were both alcoholics my entire life and spewed a lot of harsh messaging my way, yet I never felt unloved by them – it was an energetic. The combination of harshness with the feeling of love was quite a disparate pairing to deal with as I grew into adulthood, but that challenge gave me so much homework to do that I grew in leaps and bounds … and I also came to love my parents unconditionally despite everything, and even respecting their journey as much as I hated being their child.

          and I also agree very much that all we can control is ourself. if I can love unconditionally, that is a great deal. if I can do it easily, I am very, very content. we are faced daily with challenges to loving unconditionally: the abusers, the oppressors, the war mongers, etc., etc. yet, both recognizing that they are on their own mysterious journey, holding a desire for them that they discover their highest calling each moment, along with an acknowledgment of my own anger or dissonance or frustration with them gives me much to think about and a connection to vitality that I enjoy immensely.

          as for compassion… I have lots of differing thoughts on that. perhaps at a later time!

          December 9, 2011
  16. Archana Ananthaswamy Vasisht #

    Barb, I don’t see what else I could explain. If you re-read the posts, it’s all there. You know my parenting beliefs and that is what drew me to the Friday group. But we fundamentally differ in how we view the world. Without compassion, peace is just a word for me.

    December 9, 2011
    • I only know that you are interested in unschooling, I really don’t know much else about you, but I would love to. As for compassion, that’s a whole new blog as I have some very strong thoughts about this too, but I have no lack of compassion for those who are the least able to empower themselves: children, the dying, the terminally ill. My whole life is centered on love: the feeling of love, the connection with oneself, with others, the goodness we each desire to bring to our personal worlds and the world around us. Anything that does not match this vibration of love sends up a personal red flag … and causes me to think and rethink… and even act and change.

      From what I sense in your recent email, you have passed judgment, shut down and said no to peace. I am ready to keep talking if you change your mind.

      December 9, 2011
  17. Archana Ananthaswamy Vasisht #

    Barb, where you felt nausea, many others would’ve felt compassion.
    Compassion does not have to be reserved just for the weak and suffering. It is also for the ordinary people (like ourselves) that surround us! But yes, if in certain instances , you don’t feel it then you don’t feel it.

    Just because I no longer wish to keep repeating my sentiments on this blog, does not mean I have said no to peace. I’m yet to be convinced Barb. I’ll look forward to reading about yours and Mbh’s views on compassion.

    As far as judgments go, that’s another blog as to what constitutes it!

    December 9, 2011
    • mbh #

      I would also be interested in a conversation on compassion.

      December 9, 2011
      • I promise it will be upcoming in a soon to be posted blog. Brace yourselves!

        December 9, 2011
    • well I am not here to convince you, so it works! thanks Archana.

      December 9, 2011

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