THE PROBLEM: I have to start by saying my husband’s an amazing dad to our 4 yo daughter. But he does something that really irks me, and I don’t think it’s good for my daughter, either, even though she loves it. Whenever she learns something new, or draws a picture, or makes her bed, my husband tells her to ‘show’ somebody. “Show grandma the new dance you learned at school.” “Show Auntie Grace how you can count to ten.” “Show Mom (that’s me!) you can put your shoes on by yourself!” I’ve asked him not to do this, but he disagrees with me. He thinks it helps build her self-esteem. I think it’s turning her into a performing puppet, and I don’t like it. Am I right on this? And if so, how do I convince my husband to stop it?
MARY SAYS: The way I see it, there are two things going on here. The first is whether or not it’s a good idea to ask a child to perform for others, and the second is whether or not you’re the right person to ask your husband not to do that.
The first one is easy, since the happiest children are the ones who seek gratification from within. If they’re happy with what they’ve done—the song they’ve made up, the picture they colored, or the wild dance moves that came out of nowhere, they’re rock stars in their own eyes, which makes for a pretty healthy self-esteem. As soon as the command performances begin, however, children start to ask themselves: “Was I funny enough? Clever enough? How many people are looking at me? Why did they stop looking at me?”
These children are at risk of growing into an adults who measure their own self-worth by what others think of them.
Not a good thing.
Now let’s address the other issue. Each parent has strengths and weaknesses, and as you’ve identified, your husband’s tendency to put your daughter in the limelight isn’t his most exemplary trait.
But please don’t discount ‘amazing dad-ness’! So many children don’t have the luxury of growing up with an amazing parent, and your child has at least one, probably two.
Try not to focus on what your husband isn’t doing ‘right’—at least, by your standards. Rather, acknowledge to him how terrific he is when he does one of those amazing things he does. If you aren’t in the habit of making your daughter grandstand, she’ll probably end up thinking it’s a ‘dad’ thing, and somewhere inside, she’ll recognize a kernel of truth: That her father is very proud of her.
ERIKA SAYS: So here’s the thing. It is not a matter of who’s right or who’s wrong. Instead, it’s about what works for your family. As an outsider looking in, I see a proud dad, excited about his child’s developmental milestones and accomplishments. I also see a mom who wants to be cautious about how her child is being raised.
As much as this behavior irks you, have you tried understanding why your husband does it? Beneath the surface, he might be a child wounded by heavy criticism. Our parenting ways are often driven by how we were raised, trying to do it differently. After all, we don’t want to make the same mistakes our parents did, right?
You also might want to ask yourself: “What about this triggers me? Do I have wounds of my own?”
Then have an honest, open, and transparent conversation with your husband. The goal should not be to convince him you’re right and he’s wrong. Rather, share your hearts, extend grace and acceptance, and agree on what works for your family.
I’m not disagreeing with your point of view. We should be careful not to overly praise our children, especially for basic things, because we don’t want them to grow up thinking the world owes them a standing ovation. Your daughter’s self-worth shouldn’t come from others, but it’s also important for her to know how proud her parents and family are of her.
I can tell you both love her very much! Remember, you and your husband are on the same team, and your daughter will thrive when you resolve parenting issues as a united front.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
If you have a question for Mary and Erika, we’d love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more ASK MOM advice.
Mary Follin is author of the award-winning children’s book ETHYR and Teach Your Child to Read™, an online phonics program for children ages 3-6. She is mom to two grown kids. Follow Mary on Instagram at @advice_mom.
Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.
Suzanne Johnson, mom of five children and grandma of eight, is an illustrator, book cover designer, and author of Realms of Edenocht.