Yearning for parental approval

I saw a lot of parents prepping their kids and much of it was IMO due to parents wanting to make sure the kids could live in an expensive world. I think parents were nervous straying off the path and the kids heard that being unsaid over the years. You can see it on CC with the focus on T20 or Ivy or bust. Not as many taking their kids to volunteer. And fewer still actually volunteering themselves. Modeling the behavior.

Parenting is hard. I think we pushed a little too hard but we did tons of volunteering and the kids learned more from their EC’s than they ever did in the classroom. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s what you do as a parent not what you say or who you tell them to emulate. They look around and figure this out for themselves. I tried hard to get the kids to make their own path. And following an unconventional path. Won’t share details. But my '22 has taken an unconventional road in the end. I think that’s great.

I love @abasket 's What one Wants. That’s the only thing that really matters.

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Put more focus on person approval not performance approval. And if you don’t understand that, then maybe it’s a sign that you’re not verbally approving enough of their “person” - how they act, take care of others, show compassion/empathy/happiness/sadness.


Children want their parents to love them, accept them, and take a deep interest in them and their interests.

There is no part of this which includes guiding them to be a big success according to society’s standards.


I wouldn’t take anything a kid says right before embarking on a huge life change too much to heart. I think your response was great. But I suspect she is in the anxiety-prone, cold-feet stage and will be fine a few weeks after she gets to school. Not that all the advice given by the other posters isn’t valid and important, just that what is said right now isn’t necessarily indicative of what she really feels at other times when she’s less anxious and stressed that she’s made the wrong decision.


DS2 and I had a similar discussion recently. I’ll spare you the details, but it is fascinating how “kids” hear things. But it definitely made me rethink what I say to him as I’d rather not say anything at all than to say something and be misunderstood. In his case, it did feel like a bit of a projection. We are really close so we talked and talked and talked it out. The good thing about us is that we each come from an understanding of good intent, even when things get crosswise.

I recently came across this and it resonated with me and the title of this post. Maybe it’ll be helpful to someone.

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I find the Oxbridge medicine thing interesting, because while it’s hard to get in, the UK doesn’t pay doctors that well. So it’s more like winning a prize that’s ultimately not particularly meaningful rather than getting admitted to engineering or CS in many US universities, where the competitiveness is directly linked to perceived salary prospects.

And many years later, at least in the UK, I’ve seen very little correlation between the most successful people and what they studied (or how hard admissions were for that subject). We even had a Prime Minister who studied geography and that’s a notoriously easy admit :wink:


I feel like my ds is hypersensitive to things I say or imply. I’m not sure what that says about either one of us. Dh and I just helped him move to go back for an MBA program. Dh got onto me for, “nitpicking,” him. From my perspective, my suggestions are helpful. Apparently, from ds’s, they are critical (per my dh’s nitpicking comment to me). It was a long, stressful day, and we were all tired.

I feel your frustration, OP. Recognizing the achievement or choices of a kid’s peer shouldn’t be construed as taking something away from or criticizing your own kid. Sometimes I feel like I am incapable of saying anything right to ds. It’s tough.


@Hoggirl are we the same person? Do we have the same child? Except for mine is female I hear the same things. I think it’s internalizing their own thoughts onto me. Feels like a blame game that only one person in this world is hearing.

My kids went to a high performing school that most of the parents made a lot more than we did. There were a lot of fees that were expected when the school year started. I wanted the kids to have everything but I had to make choices.

So in order for the kids to get to play every sport they wanted and be in every extracurricular they wanted, I had to make choices. Not ones I wanted to but our budget couldn’t do all of the things.

So for a few years I didn’t buy the school pictures. It was $50 or so that I could use for school supplies. My kid tells me that I thought she was a very unattractive child because I never bought the pictures. That I didn’t buy them because I didn’t want pictures of her awkward stages.

No I couldn’t afford them and school pictures are terrible. I also didn’t buy popcorn at the movies. Because I had to make financial choices.

Why she got to that place is beyond me. I finally said, no I’d rather have candid photos that looked better and I couldn’t waste the money if you wanted to be in band. Geez :roll_eyes:

But it’s frustrating to me that I’m part of this blame game. Because that’s not it and I’m not feeling the way you think. Ever. At all. Never.


Ugh, I won’t even share some of the things my middle kid (27 now) has blamed us for. Pure nonsense. I just don’t respond anymore. He’s a lot better than he used to be, but he still brings things up occasionally.

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Seems like a similar theme as found in the other thread about parents worried about their kid choosing what the parents consider a lower paid career path.

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My sibling does the same thing. Nothing my parents did was correct.

They didn’t push her enough in school. They didn’t move near their children (her) to help take care of her kids, my parents grandchildren. They didn’t save enough. They spent their money foolishly.

My mom still yearns for her approval. Still feels like a failure. I’ve never said those things to mom. I don’t feel the same.

I think this is completely different than wanting your kids to earn enough to support themselves. I’d like to enjoy my retirement instead of supporting my children for the rest of my life. I know plenty of parents who are still subsidizing their very grown children.

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I think that some kids are secure in their parents love and acceptance. I’m talking normal functioning families.

But some children never do. Same family, same upbringing.

Whose responsibility is that?

I like the post by @blossom which pretty much expresses what I guess I generally try to do.

I am probably an underachiever, and so my kids all feel successful :slight_smile:
Also, I love it when they approve of me.

Exactly how I feel about all of this. Sad to see D22 feeling so insecure because my wife and I feel she has accomplished so much at her young age. I wish she would “stop and smell the roses” - she has so much to look forward to.

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My husband has the best reaction to college name dropping. It goes something like this: “My kid is going to CalTech”, “CalTech? I’ve never heard of it. Is that a local community college?” I used to get mad at him for doing that (and he does it every single time), but I can see how it has helped our kids detach from the branding aspect of college admissions. In case you’re interested in joining his teasing club with a membership of one.


I’m going to hold onto this thought, because I definitely think you are onto something here.

Sending cyber hugs.


Dr. Phil long ago said “for every criticism to your kid it’ll take 40 “atta boys” to counteract”. And I think he’s right. But depends on your kid.

I’ve always been one who “corrects”. Never meant to criticize at all but that’s not the way it was interpreted by one of my kids. I think all they ever heard was criticism and never heard the praise I gave also. And I thought I gave a lot–I’m certainly very proud of them.

My other kid just shrugged my “correction” off as just that–no insult intended but a way to improve next time. And seems to remember the praise more.

It’s probably their natures.

I think the first has a perfectionist streak and just heard the everything as criticism while the other is easier going.


I have one like that, it’s what they think they heard, not what we intentionally said. She does have a perfectionist tendency.
The other one is so easy going, has very high emotional intelligence, deals extremely well with everybody regardless.


A profound talk I heard by a psychiatrist who works with adolescents pointed out that parental relationships are likely the most fraught with the child who is the least like themselves.

This explains why so many kids hear “corrections” as criticisms… The kid who is most like you is getting “corrected” on table manners, or writing a thank you note to grandma for the birthday gift, or the right way to put the knives back in the block after washing up. The kid who is least like you is getting “corrected” on things- often daily- and sometimes hourly- which are most closer to that kid’s “essence” or personality.

Just something to ponder as we all wonder why one of our kids can laugh off (or ignore) criticism, and another kid seems so wounded.


Apparently this was a hot button issue and pushed a few of my buttons by the 3 posts yesterday :grin:

I think as parents we need to remember that most of us are caring and understanding loving parents. We are over here doing our best. We need to remember that.

We are doing our best. We love our children unconditionally. Our parents did the best they could also. Our parents did things that were influenced by their parents and we do things influenced by our parents. Our kids are going to things based on their parents.

It’s not perfect. It’s never going to be perfect. We need to give ourselves some grace.

My husband has never said a bad word about his parents. He expects his family to never say a bad word. He is very loyal to his family. My mil is not perfect. She’s an opinionated bossy stubborn woman who is completely different than her son, my husband. She’s not perfect but her son thinks she is doing her best with what she was given.

And I wonder what I did wrong? Why couldn’t I raise children who never thought I did anything wrong. And that’s a question I don’t think I will ever be able to answer.