Let Them Know They Have It

We wanted it so badly and we never got it. We still haven’t got it. Dad was withholding, dad was hard to please—we wanted to make him proud, but we just couldn’t. That’s partly why we’re working so hard today.

There’s some part of us that thinks if we can just accomplish enough, make enough money, win enough awards, surpass him then maybe, finally, we’ll get that begrudging pat on the back. ​We’ll get him to acknowledge us.​ He’ll let us know he respects us, loves us, and appreciates us. But somehow it never seems to be enough.

The comedian Pete Holmes has a little poem he wrote, as a joke, capturing this dynamic.

Mom thinks it’s great.

Dad’s not impressed.

This is how we learn to do our best.

​As we said before though​, this isn’t actually a good form of ‘best.’ It’s thirsty. It’s desperate. It’s conditional. It can serve as a form of motivation for some, but more often than not, it’s a form of torture—an ever moving goal post. Worst, it sets kids (who become adults) up to look for love/respect/recognition in all the wrong places…everywhere and in everyone.

Kids don’t need to earn this. It’s theirs by right. And when they have it—when they feel good about themselves, when they feel they are supported and believed in—​they can actually do better work​, they can do their real best.

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