The philosopher Stilpo of Megara had a daughter who had a bad reputation, but we don’t know what for. It could have been deserved or it could have been one of those ridiculously minor violations of etiquette that the ancient world was so obsessed about. They weren’t exactly shy about double standards back then, especially when it came to women.
But that’s beside the point. Someone once tried to shame Stilpo for his daughter’s reputation. His reply is worth noting: “She is not more a disgrace to me than I am an honour to her.”
This might seem like a detached or un-fatherly thing to say, but it is in fact, the healthiest and most respectful approach for a parent to have. Your kids are their own people. If they succeed and go to a great college and make a lot of money, that’s because they worked hard and got there. It doesn’t really say anything about you. If they mess up, it’s because they messed up. It doesn’t say you’re a bad father. The same goes for your successes and your failures—your kids aren’t extra special or important just because you’re great at your job. Your kids are no less important or special because you’re out of work or struggling.
Yes, of course, we’re all working together and as a parent, it’s your responsibility to care for them, love them, provide for them, and teach them the right lessons. But don’t associate what they do, what they wear, whether they’re the cool kid at school or a little awkward, with yourself. And don’t assume that just because you’re you that that somehow raises or lowers expectations for them.
Life is hard enough for a kid out there. Don’t make it harder. Don’t add extra pressure. Let them be their own people. Love them the same, always, no matter what happens or how things go.