All parents want to be proud of their teens. And since moms and dads put so much work into raising good and solid kids, they are naturally inclined to want to tell the world about their teens' achievements. In fact, research about brain functioning shows that we feel good when we brag.
Consider all of the places where we run into parents who are dying for the opportunity to tell you about their teens' latest accomplishments. These include but are not limited to the bleachers at sports activities, the hair and nail salon, the office and even the supermarket aisles. I am always amazed at how parents, particularly moms, are able to slip their teens' SAT scores into the middle of a totally unrelated conversation.
Now, I have my own particular set of feelings about parents and bragging. I am concerned that it does not always have a good and positive impact on your teens. Read on and I will explain why in four major points.
First, your teens' achievements are their achievements, NOT yours. I am aware that you have provided opportunities for your kids, driven them hundreds of miles and supported all of their efforts, but nonetheless, these good test scores, athletic abilities and college acceptances are their accomplishments, not yours. And this is not lost on your teens. They tell me that they feel that their parents often make things about themselves. The SAT scores, for example, are your teens' scores, not yours, and many of them feel that they should decide when and if they want to share them.
When your teen hears and sees you bragging about their successes they may get an unclear message. Let me clarify. You don't share their failures, do you? All of our teens have experienced some failures and disappointments, right? By bragging, you may be giving your kids the message that it is their accomplishments, rather than their essence and personality, that you care about. Honestly, how frequently have you heard a parent brag about how stressed, kind, compassionate and thoughtful their teen is? A teen who senses that only positive outcomes are acceptable is likely to become reluctant to share disappointments with you. And we want our teens to disclose both the ups and downs of their daily lives with us, correct?
By constantly bragging, parents are contributing to a culture of extreme competition. We all know that this is not necessarily healthy for our teens. Fear of failure and concern about not succeeding are clearly related to an increasing level of anxiety in the teen population.
Consider what you are modeling for your teens by discussing their accomplishments rather than discussing aspects of your own life. You may very well be sending them the message that adulthood is not interesting and exciting and it is solely their achievements that keep you happy. This seems quite burdensome.
The takeaway message for parents is that YES, you should certainly be proud of your teens and all of their hard work. But perhaps you should consider carrying this pride in your heart, rather than to the grocery store and soccer field. Sometimes the pride in your swelling heart should remain right there, just for you.