A few months ago, I decided to stop being proud of my kids. Seriously.
I noticed that I often said “I’m proud of you” after my kids attained a certain measure of success. I said it sincerely with a full heart and tears in my eyes. As I thought about it, I didn’t want them to think my pride is based on their performance. After all, I love them. Their successes don’t make me love them more. Their struggles don’t make me love them less.
The other reason I didn’t want to connect pride to performance was because I didn’t want to be that parent. You know, the one who seems to be reliving his or her glory days through the children. I wondered if saying “I’m proud of you” gave my kids the impression that my husband and I find our identities in their performance. The thing is, I’ve already been in grade school and high school. I enjoyed those days, but I really don’t want to go back to them. I want to use words that let them know their experiences, joys, and failures are their own.
So now when they do well at something—sports, music, homework, friendships, etc.—I tell them, “I’m happy for you.” When things go wrong—sports, music, homework, friendships, etc.—I say, “I’m sad for you.” As they care for or defend other people, I say, “I love seeing the Holy Spirit work in your heart to care for them!” As they work hard to achieve something, I say, “You made a great effort!”
Maybe that sounds silly to those of you who don’t love the nuances of words the way I do, but I do it because God has called all parents to represent him to our children—and I don’t want to misrepresent the heavenly Father (more than I already do, that is).
Too often, even as adults, we’re tempted to think our performance gives us value, as if the things we do make us more important to God. The truth is, we are important to God because Jesus performed—lived a holy life, defeated death, and now rules in heaven. He is happy to call us his children. But he doesn’t love us more (or less) because of what we do (or don’t do). He isn’t proud of us because of the good things we do. He rejoices over us because we are his, thanks to Jesus.
I want my kids to know the same thing. I don’t love them because of what they do. I love them because of what God did. God gave them to their dad and me—and it’s our privilege to raise them.
Linda Buxa is a writer, Bible study leader, and retreat speaker. Her three kiddos don’t necessarily fight over who’s in first place. They tease one another about who’s in third.