Truly, it’s the definition of a loaded word. At first glance, it’s a happy word. It’s a good, nice, bright feeling. When I think of the word proud, I imagine someone with light bursting out of their chest. It fills you.
But is that all proud means? I think not. Proud also implies that there was an action to get there. And it’s not just any action, but one above and beyond expectations. To see my child color in her coloring book, I may feel happy. To see her draw a circle by herself, I feel proud.
It’s also kind of a selfish feeling, isn’t it? You feel proud because you somehow helped this person to commit the action deemed worthy. Often, pure genetic contribution is al it takes. I feel proud that my child can draw a circle. I don’t feel proud that your child can draw a circle, unless I taught them how.
Really though, the biggest implication of this seemingly simple word is the possibility of the lack of it. We’ll call that un-proud. And, if it takes an extraordinary action to produce the feeling, that means that you’re un-proud the majority of the time. Is being un-proud of my child a bad thing? Is it a negative emotion? It can certainly be construed that way and an argument can be made for it.
So, this is what goes through my head every week at story time. As we sing the song that we’ve sung every week, which says multiple times “won’t my mommy be so proud of me,” I wonder what message we are giving our children. Do they need to “make us proud” to get them excel? Do they need to judge themselves based on their parents feelings? What about intrinsic motivation? I don’t want my child excelling in school because I feel proud, I want her to excel in school because that’s what she wants.
Words matter. Beyond that, how you word something matters. Where I would never tell my child she’s a “good girl” (implying that if she weren’t to do whatever she just did, she would be a “bad girl”), I can get the correct message across by telling her “Thank you so much for bringing me a burp rag for sister.” Rather than telling her I’m proud of her, I can easily say “That’s a lovely tower you built and you did it all by yourself.” So many words are loaded, and proud is one of them.
Are there any words that you avoid saying to your children because what they imply? Do you have any other great examples of showing appreciation to your child without using praise?