I joke that my mom gave me too much confidence as a kid. Whether I was drawing a picture or doing a dance or entering a poetry contest, my mom would tell me how amazing, wonderful, and incredible I was. Much to no one else’s surprise, I have since learned that I am not in fact the greatest, smartest, most talented beautiful girl in all the land (unless you ask my mom). I am, in fact, fully capable of mediocrity.
My mom was viewing me through what I have since dubbed “mom goggles.”
You know what I’m talking about Mamas…we all have seen our child’s artwork as a bonafide Picasso or their song and dance routine as Broadway-worthy. You may really have a child prodigy on your hands…but there is a strong possibility that you’re wearing “mom goggles.”
Was my sweet Mom doing me a disservice by not giving me honest feedback?
I certainly want to raise confident children. I want them to know that they are strong, smart, and capable of achieving their goals. But how do parents instill this confidence in their children without diminishing the child’s drive to continue improvement? How do we teach them that “smart” or “great” isn’t something they are or aren’t, but something they can work towards?
I read a book a few years ago called “The Danish Way of Parenting.” Denmark has been voted one of the happiest countries in the world for decades, so my curiosity was piqued. The book was full of great advice that can be gleaned from the Danes, but there was one major difference between American and Danish parenting that stuck out: Danish parents do not overly praise their children. When they give their children feedback, it is authentic. They focus on a child’s process and effort rather than the result or the child’s innate ability. For example, if a child makes a great score on a test, the parent is more likely to say “You studied very hard and made a great grade” rather than “You are so smart!” If a child makes a bad grade on a test, they might say “You worked hard” while encouraging them to put in more effort or approach studying differently the next time. There is research to support the concept that kids who are consistently told how smart or great they are can be more likely to give up when confronted with challenges.
Don’t get me wrong; I still sing my kids praises from the rooftops. I’ve hung their Picassos on the fridge and instagrammed every song and dance routine like it was the opening act of Hamilton. But I feel like the concept from the Danish way of parenting can be utilized to instill even more confidence in my child. So they aren’t the best child on the team? But they can practice hard and get better if they want to. So they aren’t the smartest child in the classroom? They can study hard and improve if they set their mind to it. Even if they never become the fastest or smartest or best at anything, this is where Mama comes in and reminds them that they are amazing to me — I love the picture, I’m proud of the performance — and that their efforts are never lost on Mama. I’ll forever see my children through my mom goggles.