The Confidence Code Blog Q&A

Claire Shipman
Young business woman with earth and cloud concept(NASA imagery)

We’re starting a new blog post today answering your questions. Please feel free to drop us a line at our contact form and don’t forget to take The Confidence Code Quiz if you haven’t already!

Q: When my daughter was growing up she said she wanted to be an astronaut. I told her she better have a backup plan. She got so angry at me for not completely supporting her dream. I tried to explain to her that being something like an astronaut or president was not completely up to her like wanting to be something like a teacher. Her anger seemed to be coming from social media messages that a parent’s roll should be to support and encourage whatever the child wanted. Now mind you I didn’t discourage her from trying for something like astronaut, even sent her to NASA summer camp, just tried to make her see the realism in making that come to fruition.  She is now 29 with two master’s degrees and is a successful senior press officer at a renown public institution (nothing to do with astronauts), but even to this day whenever I don’t 100% support her on something, and try to have a rational discussion, there is still this underlying expectation on her part that I am not being a “good” parent because I am not giving her 100% encouragement as she believes I should from this message of the past couple decades that excessive praise and support is what is expected from parents to build their child’s self esteem.

So my question is, what is a parent supposed to do to combat that over the top social media driven expectation of a parent’s roll in their child’s eye? Even 15 years later, with my daughter a very successful adult in her field, this perception still seems to affect the expectations my daughter has about my roll as her parent, and therefore affects our relationship when ever my perception differs from hers on a subject and I dare express it.

A: What a provocative and familiar theme. We’ve all been under such pressure to “tell” our kids that they can be or do anything–that you are quite right–they may be are accustomed to that message–if not from you, from the world in general.

Katty and I both have kids and have talked a lot about our tendency to over parent and over praise–so we can relate.

One thing we’ve learned–the best way to let kids discover all they are capable of is to let them actually do things–let them risk and fail and master things. And we were surprised to learn that–when they are young–it doesn’t much matter what they take on–it’s the act of learning how to be resilient that is critical–becAuse they will take that knowledge into other arenas.

So–I agree–saying–yes–you can be an astronaut over and over may make a kid feel good–it’s like candy. But with no other guidance, or push toward learning life-skills, that message could eventually become problematic. Because the long hard road to being an astronaut just won’t square with that cheerful promise.

It’s the other lessons you are teaching them that allow them to make the tough decisions later on about what they really want to do.

Say –how wonderful you want to be an astronaut. And then–be sure you are providing a lot of opportunity to learn to fail. Praise progress and even failure. Notice when she picks herself back up. And discuss the sorts of challenges that sort of career might have.

For your grown-up daughter–try some of the same! Perhaps notice when she’s been resilient and strong. When she’s taken chances in her career. That might encourage her, subtly, to do more of the same and be less focused on standard-issue praise.

Mind you–none of this is easy! I know first hand how fraught (and incredible) mother daughter relationships can be.

Thanks for your question. It made me think about what to say to my own kids.



2 thoughts on “The Confidence Code Blog Q&A

  1. David Farnsworth

    I heard the discussion on the Diane Rehm show and thought you would be interested to know that when the question was raised as to whether there were certain cultures in which women would likely to show high levels of confidence, I thought of the Philippines before whomever said that said it. I lived there for more than a year and worked with Filipinos for an extended period. (One of 76 countries in which I have physically worked). I thought you might like to hear my thoughts on why I think Filipinas demonstrate a high degree of self confidence; three reasons.
    First, as a country that was devastated by WW II, it lost a lot of male population quickly. Women simply had to step up and run thing, learning in the course of that experience that they could. This is even more true of the war generations of Germany, where I lived for 15 years. Women who reached maturity during WW II in Germany are (and I realize this is a glittering generality) aggressively self confident, even more so than the average German who is generally self confident.
    Second, the Philippines was occupied for about 450 years, and its society in general is a servant and maybe even a subservient society. They were told by their Spanish (and later to a degree American) overlords what to do and how to act. However, the men were those most in service and the women were left to run whatever private life remained. The ran the households, raised the kids, kept the gardens and often earned, through home businesses, what was necessary to keep the family afloat. While the men made few if any decisions because the did only what they were told to do, the women had to confront the problems of survival and the family succeeded or failed based on their efforts. Hundreds of thousands, probably millions of Filipinas have left the Philippines to become domestic workers and the primary support of families. Money rules.
    Third, (and whoever commented on the show mentioned Catholicism in a tone indicating surprise that it would create a confident environment) the Philippines is a matriarchy in large part because of Catholicism. With Mary as the focus of worship, that example creates an environment where all turn to women as a source of both solace and redemption .
    I note that I would not call Philippine society in general a confident one, and having managed businesses there could provide many examples of failure of confidence. However, and perhaps because of a general lack of social confidence, the women stand out as being much more confident than the men. If I were to hire a group of Filipinos to work for me in a context that required initiative and self assurance, I would certainly more likely hire women than men. Women have a much better record of successful accountability. This has shown up in their politics as well.
    ( Note that I have many thoughts on culture and confidence based on moving around as much as I have and would love to discuss these thoughts if you are interested.)

    1. claire shipman


      What an interesting and insightful and informative comment. I had not realized the way in which all of that history and culture might combine to create such confident women. We’d certainly like to continue our look at confidence and perhaps broaden it to compare cultures. Thank you. Claire


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>