COMMENTARY: Needing Approval More Than Advice

No matter what Gary did, it was never enough to please his father. When he got seven A’s and three B’s, his dad asked about the B’s. When he described

the wonderful girl he’d fallen in love with, he got a lecture cautioning that she may be different than he thought.

He thought he had a great relationship with his son so he was stunned and hurt when Gary turned down an offer to work at his firm and instead took a much lesser job in another town. He tried to talk Gary into staying, explaining the advantages of being close to the family and the pitfalls of moving. Finally, Gary exploded, “Dad, I’m moving to get away from you! I love you, but I can’t stand the way you tear down everything I do.”

Gary braced himself for a counterattack, but for the first time in his life he saw his dad’s mask of confidence dissolve into vulnerability. With tears in his eyes, his dad stammered, “All I ever wanted was to make you better and help you reach your potential and avoid risks. It’s what I do. It’s why my business is so successful. Do you want me to ignore my experience and just be a cheerleader?”

“Dad, our relationship isn’t about productivity,” Gary explained. “You’re my dad. Sometimes I need praise more than a push, and approval more than advice. Constantly trying to make me better just makes me feel worse. It’s not enough that you love me. I need you to appreciate me.”

That’s an important lesson. In personal relationships, there may be benefits to the relentless pursuit of better, but the cost may be too high.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 5

  1. Amen, to this one Michael. It resonates so well with what I tell folks & what I told my son when he went to college. I told him that we entered new spaces & while I’d be there to give advice if he asked; but my role was more of encourager now, because I’d given him the toolbox full of tools, now it was his to carry himself & I’d be there to cheer him to his goals! And to be proud of his accomplishments!

  2. My simple take-away from this heart rendering story is “Relationship”; and how enormously important a child-parent relationship is to themselves and their family. Working towards nurturing that positive, loving relationship takes lots of love, effort, patience and wisdom. We now have new twin grandaughters that 9 year old Uncle Meilong and Dad need to enjoy bonding with in our family. The human relationship can be miraculous at times; whereby the everpresent grace is best to listen and be in appreciation.

  3. Michael, I think you have spoken at conferences with Bruce Brown, the leader of Proactive Coaching, the organization for which I do presentations on character-based coaching, athletics, and leadership. Your quote, “Kids need approval more than advice,” is something that we have been saying for years in our presentation, “The Role of Parents in Athletics.” It’s a shame that so many parents in our world never understand this until it’s too late. How many kids have chosen to go to a college as far away from home as possible, so that dad or mom couldn’t come see their games and continue to do what they did for all their high school years – constantly try to give advice and analysis instead of just love and appreciation?
    One of the best things we tell parents they can tell their kids after games is this – “I love to watch you play,” and then leave it at that. It’s why so many kids have told us they love their grandparents watching them – because that’s what grandparents seem to always say after games – “I love to watch you play.” It always tears us up when we have people come up and tell us that they would have had a good relationship with their dad (or mom) if it hadn’t been for sports. Always comes back to the same thing – too much analysis/advice and not enough appreciation and love of them just playing.

  4. I was married to a man who belittled what I did in my life. I felt I got no support, compassion, acceptance. A therapist told him that he couldn’t “run” his marriage like he did his business. In his business, he couldn’t focus on the 95% that was correct; his professional success depended on focusing on the 5% that was wrong, and fixing it. Unfortunately, he focused on the 5% that was “wrong” with my actions (eg: not cleaning a scuff mark on a wall in an immaculate house, not completing the last of 12 things on his to-do list he left for me…). I finally divorced him and began a journey of self improvement that focused on raising my self esteem, discovering my codependent default behaviors and taking contrary action, gaining joy, peace, serenity from within rather than from external sources, and being of service.

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