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Why You Shouldn’t Say “I’m So Proud of You”

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Why Saying "I'm So Proud of You" Is Bad

Yesterday at a mom’s group, I was speaking about “praise” versus “encouragement.” Typically, parents agree they want to encourage, NOT praise, but inevitably someone will ask me, “Can’t I say I’m proud of you? What’s so wrong with that?”

Parents can’t seem to imagine dropping this seemingly vital comment from their repertoire.

Well, today my 14-year-old daughter gave me a peek into the child’s perspective on this when she said to me, “Mom, I am so glad you don’t say I’m proud of you.” I said, “Really? Why is that?”

She said, “You know how I was trying to get fit and lose some weight? I just told Zoe [her sister] that I lost two pounds this week and she smiled and said, “I’m so proud of you!” and it felt awful. It made me feel like she really does want me to lose weight and be thinner. That she doesn’t think I am okay at this weight.”

I listened and replied, “But I was excited too when you told me about your weight loss. Do you feel I’m judging you too?” She answered “No, Mom, what you said was totally different.  You said you were excited for me and my accomplishments that I worked hard on. You said you were happy that I got what I was going for.  I loved hearing that support and belief in me.”

I asked Lucy’s permission to share her perspective with my parent readers.  I hope some of you feel better dropping the “I’m so proud of you” line now too.  Gosh, I hope Zoe doesn’t feel badly reading this. I know she was not intendingto make her sister feel badly.  She didn’t know the power and message of those words, just like most parents don’t.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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68 Responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Say “I’m So Proud of You””

  1. Renee

    This is exactly what I thought every time my mom would say how proud she was of me or my dad was of me. It felt like they congratulated themselves on my accomplishments (and I actually think they do take credit for raising me in a particular way and are not just happy for me). I am a chronic people pleaser I think because of this shift in focus away from what would make me happy to what would make them proud. For one of my birthdays, the card my mom sent me wasn’t a birthday card but some kind of special “we are proud of you” card. She never sends me birthday cards so it still really stands out in my mind.

    What made it worse was that my brother and sister were not doing very well in life after age 30, and I imagine they felt the pain of shame because they did not get these messages of pride as much as I did. And so every family holiday was torture: my parents were expressing pride of me in one way or another and in return, my siblings would find opportunities to take me down a peg or two. It has gotten to the point that I don’t want to be at family events and am acting out. I am tired of being taken for granted by everyone in my family. There are other dynamics at work that I won’t get into, but for me, this particular dynamic has caused me a lot of emotional pain. I have tried to communicate it but it didn’t go well.

    • Ted

      I am proud of all you for expressing proudly your views on being proud, as well as the exchange of the term “proud”, whether accepted or directed outward as we proudly study, hence resulting in discussion and informed conclusions.

    • David

      This article is useful to gain insight and empathy towards others out there and how they might feel about certain terms.

      But to everyone like Renee who is an adult and feels abused by someone saying they’re “proud of you”, I believe you’re looking too much into it, thinking too much about it, and the result of that is taking something negative out of something said in a purely congratulatory and positive manner. They’re just saying congratulations, I’m happy for you, good job, keep going, you’re awesome 95% of the time. They just want you to be happy!

      Society has become so isolated and less human due to factors like the nuclear family, huge distances between friends/people you’re close to due to career changes/market forces, the internet turning everything into a text message devoid of vocal intonation and emotion, etc. Judgements against these sorts of nano/micro-transgressions just further pushes us apart.

      Should I have to spend 10 minutes just thinking about every compliment I give to someone because of all the negative ways they could take it? Nobody would ever talk to anyone that way. When I used to think like that, I NEVER texted anyone, because I always wondered if they’d take it the wrong way. I’d rather live in a world where we give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of always assuming there’s a hidden agenda, that there’s some negative manipulative subtext to every message.

      Maybe a better response would be to talk to your Child about what you mean when you say that “you’re proud of them” and making sure they know that most people just mean the best for them when saying nice things to them. It’s hard enough to bridge the communication gap as is, lets not fill the gap with pessimism, negativity, and paranoia. Even if the bridge is built out of the most caring, loving, truly genuine intentions, if the foundation is resting on all that negativity, it will always collapse.

      • Michael W Grome

        David, I was about to write the very same thing and I thank you for writing it.

        Political correctness ties into this article in that it involves being considerate in regard to what we project. However, there seems to be little to no push in our society for people to be considerate in how we interpret signals we receive.

        As a result, someone can be entirely considerate in what they say or text and still have their words be interpreted negatively. However, if everyone gave up their biases and offered each other the benefit of the doubt, there may be significantly fewer perceived negative interactions.

        I’m glad to see that others are realizing this phenomenon, too.

        • Alyson Schafer

          I really appreciate the dialogue and insights you are sharing. Thanks Michaeal, David and others for keeping this conversation rich and expansive.

        • Doug

          There’s a lot of sloppy thinking and careless use of words around the “I am proud” issue. Being concerned about how one uses the English language and aiming for simple and direct statements is not being “politically correct.” Words have meaning, and many people continue to explore these meanings and refine what they say. Brushing off this process as trying to be politically correct may be a sign of laziness and egotism.

          • Amber

            Yes, Doug! I know I’m two years too late on this conversation 🙂 But it’s still valid. Political correctness isn’t what this is about at all. It’s realizing what we’re really saying when we use the words we choose to use. So many phrases in our everyday vernacular come out thoughtlessly. Let’s all aim to keeping tweaking the way we’re expressing ourselves to make sure we get our real point across! I love this type of insight.

      • April

        I think you’re misusing the idea of political correctness. I don’t believe in being politically correct in order to not hurt someone’s feelings. I do believe in communicating effectively though. The point of this article is to show that in certain cases, telling someone you’re proud of them can be misinterpreted, depending on the relationship between the people involved.

        I prefer letting people know that ‘I’m happy’ for them and their accomplishments and think this is something that isn’t said enough.

        When I break down the meaning of ‘I’m proud of you’, it comes off as if I am taking ownership over someone else’s hard work. I don’t think that my reluctance to use this phrase is being politically correct; it is just a desire to have a more clear communication of what I am trying to express. : )

      • Mike

        I recently had this discussion with my girlfriend. She informed me of this issue using the word “proud”. I had NO idea. I have always used “proud” to express my genuine congratulations and adoration for my friends, peers, loved ones when they achieve a goal they set out for. As I get older, I’m finding that I speak an English language that is no longer acceptable, and I’m feeling so confused and lost. I implore people, particularly those who know me or have had a bit of time to get to know me, to look a little beyond the words I use and examine the intent and meaning behind them. I’ll try my best to meet people halfway, but I can’t learn a new language in a week. Thank you for posting this very helpful and informative thread.

  2. Liza

    “I’m proud of you” is a very self centered statement. When I am told by someone that they are proud of me for losing weight and “looking great”, what I hear is, ‘I’m so glad you finally did what you had to do to look good enough for me to feel ok about being seen with you’. My thought is that they are looking at my appearance and proclaiming that in their estimation I’m now acceptable whereas before, in their estimation, I was not.

    • Author Bessie Sims

      I agree with you totally. I’m an author and when people say I’m so proud of you I heae well it’s about time you climbed out of that hole.

      • Chad Tanner

        I think both of you have assumptions you need to drop, because when you come across and meet someone who doesn’t think like you do, you are just going to judge them unnecessarily. I just sent my sister a comment about how proud of her I am. I sent her this comment because I am to shy to say it to her, I don’t socialize often so talking to my sister is uncommon. I have never once thought of my saying I was proud of her as being a comment that has a hidden message in it like the one you both assume to be true. If my sister lost weight and I said I was proud of her, it was because I think back on that moment and it makes me surge with pride. But also, I don’t doubt that those who are feeble minded will assume they can read the intentions and thoughts of others, unless if you actually know you have that skill, then you should deny any and all false assumptions. When I read your comments, you made me feel scared like my sister would not understand that my emotion towards her was pride.

        • blueskies57

          Great comeback, Chad. I’m totally with you, and don’t get why the other two above comments were so quick to look for a negative twist to what was otherwise meant as a compliment. It reminds me of my aunt’s boyfriend, at the time, they were getting ready to go out to dinner, and she put on some make-up. He told her she looked good, and she immediately took offense, as if without make-up she doesn’t look good. I argued with her that it was a compliment, just say thank you. She wouldn’t agree. Well, why do you wear make-up? I asked her. She said, because I think it makes me look better. OKAY………….. But he’s not allowed to think so?

        • Tan

          I agree 100% Chad, they really do!!
          I came across this page by accident ,actually looking for a quote. I cannot believe how this has all been taking out of context.
          In my personal opinion, and we are all entitled to have our own opinions in life, i think it’s totally ridiculous how this phrase has been changed into a negative by so many people.

          Telling someone that you are proud of them is simply telling them that you are proud of their achievements, it certainly is not anything about self praise and certainly not putting them down.

          I have alway’s told my children and family and friends how proud of them i am, and it has alway’s been received with thankfulness, not making them dislike each other!! And i certainly do not take it as a negative when someone tells me they are proud of me, and i will give everyone a very personal example:-

          I was diagnosed with bowel cancer two years ago, age 42, female. It was a complete and utter shock, to everyone involved including doctors.
          It had been missed, and i am very blessed to be here today. My journey has been long, and life changing to say the least. I have overcome lot’s of hurdles as do everyone. Living with the stoma has been challenging, but also life saving. Anyway going off the subject, my daughter has told me on numerous occasions how proud of me she is, in fact my family and friends have also.
          I do not see this as anyway negative, if I’m totally honest it made me cry with utter love and happiness.

          Anyone who overthinks any form of compliments or think’s that there are hidden agendas or people are not being completely honest about what they say, should take a step back and ask themselves why they are thinking those thoughts, personally i believe it’s more about them and not what is being said about the phrase.

          So Chad please do not feel bad after reading the comments on this forum, I’m sure your sister was very happy for you to take the time to tell her you are proud of her. I know when my brother’s tell me, I’m more than happy, especially as the older one doesn’t bother that much lol, so it was definitely a big thing for him to say and showed how much he cares :))

          • ivanmvh

            Proud, love, happy, excited, good, blessed, nice, cute, beautiful, well are only words, for me are positive words. How these words are understood depends more on the context, of the persons not on the words.

    • Matthew Baran

      So if I say, wow that haircut looks great, you must figure I thought you looked terrible before you got the haircut. Best to just not speak anymore, it would totally solve all of our problems.

  3. Alyson Schafer

    Good points Liza! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hilary

    Personally I tell my children I am proud of their achievements and I don’t use it to flatter myself. I do object however you the term that I have seen people use which is “you/my daughter/my son has done me proud” which implies they have done something that makes you look good. I feel that language evolves and perhaps people don’t use words in the correct dictionary definition but then that can apply to many other words. I mean the word bad can mean something is good! Personally if you get too caught up in details the actual sentiment is lost. If telling my kids that I’m proud of them makes them feel good then I don’t see a problem!!

    • nicola

      Totally agree with your response. I tell my children what I am proud of them for. It is nothing to do with my ego, but everything to do with giving praise where it’s due, being encouraging, supportive and loving.

  5. Bec

    I happened to stumble upon this page and I feel I need to say that I believe kids should be told that their parents are proud.. This is all I have ever wanted my mum and dad to ever say to me… Although I’m 23 now I just wish that one day they will, particularly my mum, would say she is proud of me and that she loves me… Sorry if I have gone off topic….

    • Sarah

      I also agree with Bec. I strongly believe that others need to know how proud we are of their smallest or biggest effort in bettering themselves. People work hard to achieve their goals and the encouragement from their surrounding should never be held back. Positive reinforcement has always meant a great deal to the youth I work with. They may not be getting it at home but they can count on me and my team to be proud of their efforts. Were a safety net that helps them reach out further and further towards their unsure future!

      • Rebekah Viets

        Totally agree. I love it when someone takes the time to see what I went through. It makes me feel good makes me feel like doing it again.

  6. Denise

    Thank you for sharing this. I have never felt comfortable with this phrase either – it feels like “pigeonhole” energy.

    • ivanmvh

      Proud, love, happy, excited, good, well are only words, for me are positive words. How these words are understood depends more on the context, on the persons not of the words.

  7. Paul

    People have ups and downs. I’m proud of some of the things that my daughter has done, and I’m not proud of some things. If you praise the person, rather than the positive things they’ve done, then you also condone the negative things they’ve done. “I’m proud of you for graduating high school” is a lot better than “I’m proud of you”. Pride, if warranted, is OK. Teach your children when it is warranted by praising the right things.

  8. Donna

    As a 48 yr old with 3 older sisters and 2 living parents, the “I’m proud of you” has always grated on me a bit, most recently as said by one sister just last week. I had just finished telling her a story about a choice I had made a couple of years earlier, that she was not aware of. Especially from a sibling, and at this age, it does seem to be a very self centered statement by her, a way of trying to taking credit for/ownership of my actions and choices, as if she had been a factor in them.

    With regards to my parents, it still bothers me when they say it, but not quite as much. After all, they did create me and I would not exist without them. Still, the choices I made that led me to this point were mine. I don’t hold them responsible for my bad choices, why should they be responsible the good ones? Note: I still smile genuinely and say thank you when my parents offer that comment, after I internally switch out the words “proud of” with “happy for”.

    I can’t speak with certainty as to how a current child might perceive the “proud” phrase, however even with my nieces and nephews over the years I have always used “happy for you, it’s amazing what you did, that is so wonderful…terrific….fantastic…etc.) and refrained from using “proud”. In my eyes, it was so that they could relish their self sufficiency.

    Additionally, in recent years I have provided input to someone to help him achieve some financial milestones and I have always been happy for him in his accomplishments and for how happy those accomplishments made him. Regardless of my input (which he could have found on the internet or in a book or any thousands of other ways) his accomplishments were not mine to take credit for, to own or to be proud of. He’s the one that did the work, that made the hard choices and succeeded. I simply presented other ways of thinking/doing things to which he had not previously been exposed.

  9. Veronique

    Interesting to read this as a middle-aged woman. I am married but have been
    jobless for a couple of years and searching hard. Despite being university-educated
    and having had long-time professional employment until these last two years, the
    best that was offered to me after an interview recently was a terrible assembly-line
    factory job where most workers have to quit after just a few month due to quickly
    developing carpal tunnel or other repetitive strain injuries. When my father
    asked if the job had been offered to me, I said that yes it had and he exclaimed,
    “Oh, I’m so proud of you!”. He also suddenly had a few thousand dollars available
    to offer towards a vehicle so that I could drive to the out-of-town job. I ended up
    declining the job due to the bad reputation of the factory in regards to worker
    wrist/hand injuries and any offer of money for a vehicle was quickly rescinded.
    So yes, for those of you who have children, do be careful with ever saying
    “I’m proud of you” in what might come across as a conditional way.
    Even into adulthood and from an elderly parent, it hurts to hear that instead
    of “I’m relieved/happy for you”.

  10. Krmanj

    u guys should just be happy to have a parents ”’ some out there they don’t even have no buddy or in very young age they last both parents” I personally wish if I had a at lest one parent than I wouldn’t even care what she or he would say about me or to me.. just a thought ..

  11. Dad A

    Pride goeth before a fall.

  12. James

    This is all just semantics. “I am proud of you” is just another way of saying “Well done! I love you.” Stop interpreting a positive sentiment so negatively. I also wish my parents had told me this more.

  13. Pro M. Thius

    “I’m so glad” is fine…”I’m so proud of you” makes the person who says it Sick.

    • LM

      Agreed, I found this thread about peers telling each other this. People share stories about things they’ve done wrong and how they’ve made better choices, the friend will say they’re proud? It seems to be a trend and I’m trying to make sense of it. You didn’t even know this person at the time so why would you have pride in their actions? Someone is a little off their rocker…

  14. Virginia

    My sisters say I’m so proud of you, when I do something I accomplish. I can’t stand if! I also can t stand it when they tell there kids how proud they are. There is a toxic feeling that runs through my bones! It just doesn’t sound healthy and I feel like telling the to keep there pride! I’m glad I got to read this and all of the comment.

    • alyson

      Glad the post resinated with you! Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts too.

  15. Jam

    how about a headline without SHOULD in it?

  16. V

    I agree & I don’t agree with your post. Being proud of your child and expressing it can be a huge confide booster and a lesson on what are the right priorities in life. The key is to be proud for the right things, like being kind to others, being a good friend, sticking to something even if it was hard, showing compassion & empathy, etc. I can tell you from personal experience, not telling your child that you’re proud of her at all can do a lot of harm.

  17. V

    Yes, encouraging a child to love and be proud of her/himself is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give child. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting a child know of the positive feelings they generate in you. It teaches them to feel too. Children naturally want to please they’re parents and they want to know that their parents are paying attention and notice what they are doing right.

  18. FS

    Semantics … really just be happy someone cares enough to proud of you or for you or excited about your accomplishments!

    Sometimes it feels like parents cant ever get it right. They are human beings with flaws like all of you. Let’s just focus on the essentials!

  19. tc

    This is bs. I’m 17 and my parents have NEVER said they were proud of me in my entire life and it hurts. I do everything I can and I am proud of myself but my parents have never said a word about any of my accomplishments. I long for the day they might finally say it, but also hesitant because I know that I will cry, that’s how much it means to me. Please acknowledge your children’s accomplishments, let them know you are proud of them.

    • alyson

      There are a million ways to show your child that they are loved and that you care deeply for them and are ecstatic for what they are learning, growing, doing, being!!! Eliminating one word “proud” doesn’t mean you stop showing your child many times a day their worth, value and lovability – just not with this word which denotes that the child is a chattel and it implies that merit is only to be gained by parental approval and judgment. I am sorry your parents are not doing their job 🙁 I think its great you are able to feel proud of yourself. I would let them know how you feel. – Good luck, Alyson

  20. Bernard

    What a load of rubbish

  21. End of the Praise-Junkie | Vicki Hoefle

    […] Read one Mom’s account of her daughter’s experience when her sister said, “I’m so proud of you!” You will see that when kids are raised with Encouragement from their parents instead of Praise, when someone says to them, “I’m proud of you,” it feels awful. It feels as if you weren’t able to do whatever it was that the parent was proud of, the parent would be disappointed. As parents you may think you are helping your child to feel good, but it has the opposite long-term effect. […]

    • alyson

      Great to meet another Adlerian Parenting Expert! Love your site too Vicki. Thanks for chiming in on this one!

  22. Theresa

    Wow, this entire article blows my mind. What I would have given to hear either of my parents tell me they were proud of me! I am 56 years old and to this day beam from ear to ear when someone tells me they are proud of me. I will continue to tell my grandchildren how proud I am of them, how smart they are, how beautiful they are….anything positive I can think of. Having never heard any positive statements growing up is so detrimental. I can’t stand the political correctness of today…we are not suppose to tell little girls they are pretty, tell them they are smart. I say tell them both! Fill them with enough positive statements to help them grow a healthy self-esteem!

  23. Amy Lenard

    I agree with a lot of people here by the parent I’m proud of you is great and I wish my parents said it more BUT anyone else saying it — no–feels patronizing

  24. Anonymous

    Honestly, as a kid who doesn’t hear the words “I’m proud of you”, it hurts because you will constantly find yourself trying to live up to an approval that will never happen. It makes it feel like all the work you put in to achieve a goal is pointless, especially after you run up to a parent and tell them with excitement how you did something amazing and they don’t tell you that they’re proud of you or your achievement.

  25. Karen Catalan

    Wow…seems all a bit too complicated where it doesn’t need to be. Though I would never dismiss a vchild’s feelings if I was told my child that by telling him those words, it made him feel worse.

    To me, saying “I’m proud of you, whether to great friends, or to your child, it is no more and no less a deep form of support and admiration of what they have just achieved…no matter how small. He got an 85 in Science, when all semester he had struggled with it and the year prior it was his one grade in the high 70’s, when he was an A student.. I was thrilled and said, that’s amazing..I’m so proud of you! Translation…what an achievement!

    Why does everything have to be broken down into words spoken like a psychological major? or therapist? If I had those words handy, or had different words assembled on my tongue at that moment that would define “I’m proud of you” without saying , “I’m proud of you,” then of course I would have used them…but to me being proud of someone is saying you respect and admire what they were able to achieve. It doesn’t need to be read into anymore than that.

  26. Aimee

    Yesterday hanging with my sister she reminded me that mother was always so proud of me when I lost weight. It brought back a bad feeling. Me wanting attention feom my mom. I said. “I only got attention when I lost weight” she felt I should be happy about that. She said my mother only wanted me to be happy. I didn’t know that being happy as a teen had to have been because I may have been a little over weight. I don’t think I was ever oreweight when I was young.
    I never told my daughter that I was proud she lost weight. I tell her she always looks great. my sister should focus on her dysfunctional family. Not what my mother thought 35 years ago.
    I hope this is not to confusing. Just to tired to express my anger at my sister.

  27. Jacqueline Deale

    An old article but one that resonates with me nearly 7 years later. I abhor when people say they are proud of me. Some more so than others. And I was actually googling the subject as I thought perhaps I was being silly about it. So very glad to hear I am not the only one. I find it condescending from some that I roll my eyes and walk away, others I might smile politely, but never enjoy those words. If someone does something great I rather say you should be so proud of yourself and I think it’s awesome. Because they did “It” whatever it might be and I truly hope they did it for themselves and not to please others. The same as when I achieve something it is my moment of pride and not that of others. Don’t rain on my little parade… Those moments are often few and far between. Unless of course I publish it All over Facebook.. Because I feel the need for attention then ignore my ramblings 🙂 I had then better suck it up because the word “proud” will be used.

  28. Tammy

    Too sensitive. Nothing wrong with saying I’m proud of you. You’d have to be overly sensitive to feel that way. I say I’m proud of you to everyone. It just means that you are proud. I mean, unless they followed with I’m so glad you lost that weight because you were getting too big etc. etc. I’d understand.
    But either way, I’ve told someone before that I was proud of them for losing weight.if someone is over weight, I’m not going to lie to them and say they are fine as they are slowly dying because they are unhealthy. I wouldn’t be doing them any favors by lying. There is a way to say it though. And saying I am proud of you is an encouragement for them to be healthy.

  29. Debs

    My mom has always told me that she’s proud of me. Another form of praise she uses is “atta girl”…I’m 44 lol. I never really thought about the word proud before today when someone posted something on Facebook about being proud of heritage and skin color. I went to and realized that the word “proud” doesn’t mean what I’ve always thought when my mother told me she was proud of me. It is actually a very self-centered word. Does it negate everything she said, or every time she told me she was proud of me? Not at all because I know my mother never meant that she is taking full credit for everything I’ve ever done. It does make me rethink saying it to others. Maybe instead of saying, “I’m proud of you”, we should instead say, “You should be proud of accomplishing so much” and then teach children what words really mean.

  30. Stuart Fletcher

    tTen years ago I suffered a traumatic brain injury, and for five years in and out of hospitals and
    treatments with psych md.s they put me on a list of meds (27 pills a day)to keep me stable.Only in tte last year has the fog lifted, but I still make lots of mistakes,I am learning to live life again,
    to accept what I can.t do and what my limitations are.To all of you who say “I’m proud of you ”
    the ones to whom are receiving this Gift of words will surely be grateful. Why try to overcomplicate
    your expressions, school does that..

  31. Patricia Danielle Ware

    I grew up with my mother telling me not to us the word ” proud”, because its derived from the word pride and that is a sin. I disagree. Proud only becomes a sin when you have too much of it to where it becomes arrogant and bigheaded and place others beneath you. Feeling of being proud is only the recognizing of an accomplishment. I tell my children I am proud and it seem to motivate them and guide them toward the path they should be following, not just to make ME happy but to make them happy also in the long run.

  32. Luciferian sage

    Screw this shit! You’re proud of your daughter or son no matter what they do and don’t do. So saying I’m proud of you doesn’t imply I’m humble of everything else related to that, it means I’m proud of your existence. Full stop! Thus Lucifer, if you believe in him, is proud of and looks after his children. Just don’t tell your mother, that’s one thing she’s not proud of. The truth is we’re not created by God, but the angels, and your mother, not the other way around, which justifies the pride. Thus if the above cult symbolises pride, then pride is good therefore motherly pride is good, enough with the dogma that pride is a sin, it’s false! True religion has points of power, not rules, justifies pride and once again pride’s not a sin, it’s good to be proud. Your Christian belief, like most religions, is a lie, taking humility literally, no, God didn’t expect you to avoid pride literally, he means don’t be a proud fool, even the Bible says it’s proud, therefore pride’s not a sin.

  33. Marsha

    For me, it totally depends on the situation. I grew up longing to hear it from my dad and never did, so it has caused some issues there, but, on the other hand, when one of my friends says it to me then it really gets under my skin. It rubs me the wrong way because, even though she doesn’t mean to, she gives off a “superiority vibe” to people in various types of situations so there’s unpleasant history there. Hearing it from another person might give rise to yet another reaction. (So often it really isn’t about what someone says but what we hear in our own heads which causes there to be an issue.)

    In regards to the weight issue, understandably people are often insecure and sensitive about their weight so BOTH the person commenting on it AND the person who lost the weight might want to take that into consideration. (Fellow commenter, I get your point and logic about no one being offended by someone telling them their hair looks great after a change in style, but have you ever heard of hair shaming? Probably not, but body shaming is definitely out there.)

    Yes, IMO, our society is way too politically correct today with everyone being overly sensitive about everything, but I think part of the reason it’s like that is because being considerate of other people in the first place has long fallen by the wayside.

    I’m appreciative of this article as it’s given me perspectives I hadn’t considered regarding saying those words to my own child. Just because it hurt for me not to hear it growing up doesn’t necessarily mean I should make sure she does hear it. She isn’t me, so I’m going to ask her. Thanks!

    • Alyson Schafer

      Thanks for taking the time to make such a considered response and join in the convo. I think it is a rich topic!!! Clearly people bring different perspectives, and yes, our own upbringing and what we heard or wish we had heard from our parents. I have been watching parenting trends for a long time and I think Robert Brookes captures some of this phenomena in his book on Character in that he describes how we have shifted our focus on raising kids away from their moral character and instead to focus on their achievements and I think that is more likely to invite parents to judge and measure their children in ways that can easily feel like conditional love. In fact, a friend who recently moved from Portugal said it was the first cultural parenting difference he noticed. Interesting!

      • Chrissy

        I’m just really confused. Your daughter wants to/wanted to lose weight, but if her sister joins in on her celebration by saying she’s proud of her for achieving her goal, then that is offensive? How do you support someone’s goal yet detach yourself from the desire for them to reach it?

        When I was growing up, my grandmother told me every time she saw me that she was proud of me. This made me beam inside to know that she had faith in me, and she was so proud to call me hers. It made me dream bigger, and to keep going to finish things that were hard. Not out of solely trying to win someone’s approval, but because I really had within me achieved a self esteem.

        I’m also a Christian and my Father God tells me he is proud of me. I am the apple of his eye. He rejoices over me with singing and encourages me to keep walking, even when things are hard.

        My children will receive that same unconditional love and acceptance from me. I owe them that much. I am proud of them everyday. In such a negative and depressing world they need all the positive words they can get.

  34. darkshadowsx5

    I’ve never once heard “im proud of you” growing up and to be honest i dont really know what it means or what to think or feel if someone says it to me. its confusing and all i can do is google it for some insight but the words still dont have meaning to me… i wanted to say it to someone for a good reason but i cant if i dont understand its meaning… or if it what it means in the context.
    is it suppose to invoke an emotion/feeling? i dont understand what pride feel like… the only emotion i understand the most is sadness… very rarely am i “happy” about something, and im 26 or 27?.. idk my birthdays are so insignificant i forget my age a lot….

    I guess i better just forget about using the word if i cant understand it…

  35. Tom Way

    Mr. Rogers told people he was proud of them.

  36. Mary

    Everyone is different and I don’t believe we can paint a general picture to this subject. I was never told “I’m proud of you” by my parents. They’d use alternatives and it would drive me crazy. I would have given anything to have been told those words. Did it play with my self-worth? It sure did. For the longest time, I’d constantly seek approval from others. I definitely do not think you’re a bad parent for genuinely telling you’re child you’re proud of them. I know it would have made me happy.

  37. Kai

    I can tell you right now as someone who has never heard their parents say “I’m proud of you” I would do anything just to hear that they are finally proud that I’m their kid and that I did something right by them. Basically please parents on here don’t ditch that phrase, you have no idea how much it could mean to a kid that their parents are proud of them for something they did

  38. Jean

    Just wanted to let you know I never heard I am proud of you and that made me sad I wish that I would’ve heard I’m proud of you more I understand that sometimes they can have a negative connotation but never hearing it at all It’s just as bad


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