This is a Tough Balance

We’ve talked about being a fan of your kids. We’ve talked about believing in them. We’ve talked about encouraging and supporting them. We talk about these things because they’re important.

But of course, it’s a tricky balance. Because being a supportive, encouraging fan doesn’t mean you never point out where they can get better. As parents we have to figure out this balance of supporting our kids and pushing them—just like those early days at the park when they find their way to the swingset for the first time. 

In the beginning, it’s all about providing support while they get comfortable with the back and forth of the swing. Then you start pushing a little more, but only as hard as your hands and their grip on the chains can support. Push too hard too soon and they can fly off the front or whip themselves off the back when the swing comes flying back toward bottom. Eventually though, your kid gets used to ebb and flow of the swing, they find their grip confidently on the chains, they know how to anticipate the force of ever bigger pushes and the resulting swings the other direction. And when that finally happens, that’s when they start pumping their legs on their own, sending themselves as high as they can—higher than you ever thought they would be comfortable reaching for. 

That’s the shifting balance we must find—and keep—at all times as parents if we are to do right by our kids, because nobody improves in life simply remaining where they are. The founder of Dell Computers, Michael Dell, has a great mantra in his company related to this idea: Pleased but never satisfied. 

Perhaps this is a way of thinking about ambition and progress and personal development that we can teach our kids and, with some sensitivity, also apply to our own parenting style. We always love them, we’re always proud of them, we’re always pleased with how they did. But does that mean we don’t push and encourage them to do better? Of course not! 

The balance between these two approaches is key. They have to know you believe in them to be able to hear the criticism. They won’t believe you’re truly being honest with them if you are never anything but positive. They have to trust that the very hands which pushed them ever higher are the ones that will catch them on the fall.Remember: Great coaches are harder on their teams when they win than when they lose. They are pleased but never satisfied. Because they know the team’s true potential and they want to help them realize it. Just like you must with your kids.

P.S. This was originally sent on April 28, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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