Parents should separate own self-esteem from child’s performance

There’s become a common phrase for what used to be called “stage moms”. Today it’s “tiger moms!” This is not exclusive to moms, though. In the sports world there have always been dads pushing their boys to be the next great something. So just what is that all about?

Lest we think this is only a sports thing or beauty pageant issue, think again. The same dynamic can be in play in virtually any field or arena such as academics, spelling bees, et cetera.

First off, as I endeavor to talk about this subject, don’t take my words as being critical of the parents. I believe they generally have the best of intentions. Very often, though, it is obvious to those around them that they’re pushing too hard but the parent doesn’t see it. Where are the lines that separate good parenting from the tiger mom?

Last month I mentioned “life commandments” briefly. Because the child believes their parents tell them the truth, they strive very hard to make true what their parents project. for example, when we tell our young son that “big boys” don’t cry, they then equate crying with not being a man. They quickly learn to suppress their feelings because they want to please Mom and Dad and be a big boy.

When a parent gives a message that a child has to become the best at something, the child wants to please the parent. This can give a child the message that to be lovable, he or she must do something well. The parent sees the child respond by trying and the parent feels, “See? They really want to do this.” Off they go down the path of performance orientation.

Developmentally, a child starts discovering their identity at about 11 to 13 years of age. That’s because, as I mentioned last month, they start receiving additional chemicals in their brains at about 9 years old. Before these chemicals, they cannot decide for themselves anything of long-term significance. They like or dislike things based on the rewards or punishment in the present.

When a parent has self-esteem issues they most often try to validate themselves through their child’s performance. This ties them together and makes them dependent on each other for their value. So, when a daughter gets cut from the cheerleading squad, the mother is furious because it devalues her. The parent who “goes off” on a referee for a call on their child does so for the same reason. At that point the parent is not free emotionally to make judgments or handle conflict because they’ve built up a system that values them that is totally dependent on their child’s performance. They are now a tiger mom or dad. Therefore, if your emotional well being is connected to your child’s performance, you’ve crossed the line from good parenting.