My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me.
– Jim Valvano
I have always been tenaciously goal-oriented. In grade school, I made the honor roll each quarter, I was the first in my family to graduate from college, and I have achieved relative success in my career. My tenacity didn’t develop on it’s own, though. The key to my success was knowing that my mother believed in me.
Unfortunately, I don’t do as good of a job as she did at letting my children know that I believe in them. While I have periodic bursts of being the encouraging Daddy, they are not frequent enough. Some nights when I tuck my son, N, into bed, we have this conversation:
Me: Is any five-year-old faster than you?
Me: Is any five-year-old smarter than you?
Me: Is any five-year-old cooler than you?
Me: That’s right. Daddy’s proud of you and I love you.
I have to force myself to be encouraging because my natural inclination is to be a harsh taskmaster.
Just the other day, my daughter, Nee, and I were working on some flash cards because she was struggling with math. When she gave the wrong answer, I would frown. My demeanor began to discourage her. “Why do you get mad when I get one wrong?” she asked. I quickly realized that I was not showing her that I believed in her. From that point on, I made sure to give her positive feedback when she got the answer right. At the end of our drill, I gave her a big hug and told her that she was my math superstar. That small gesture made all the difference.
Because she is shy and self-conscious, Nee, needs constant encouragement. She recently ended a successful first season of soccer after a rocky start. Things turned around after I showed her some Mia Hamm videos on YouTube. In one of the videos, a young man had scrawled “I love You Mia” across his torso. I told Nee, that I was going to write “I love You Nee across my chest and rip off my shirt when she scored a goal.
“Please don’t, Daddy,” she said.
“Okay, I won’t,” I said, “But I just want you to know that you can be just as good as Mia Hamm.”
“Really?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “In fact, you can be the best soccer player ever.” That statement brought smile to her face. After our conversation, she displayed her own streak of tenacity on the soccer field. She never scored a goal, but that’s okay. She did her best and that’s all that matters.
I struggle to encourage my children on a consistent basis because I often display frustration when they fall short of their potential. But as their father, it is important that they know that I believe in them.
So I will close this post by publicly saying: Nee, N, and X, Daddy believes in you.
Question: Do your children know you believe in them?