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Do you seek approval? Friday March 24, 2017

Recently a friend told me about her relationships with her adult children who are in their 40s and 50s. After bringing up her children she went back to study and through a lot of hard work she obtained her MA then a PHD and also about 4 post graduate diplomas. This woman also teaches at universities, teaches writing workshops all over the state and helps other people to edit their books. I was surprised to hear that her own children are not impressed by what she has achieved or interested in what she does. She says she does not want their approval but it would be encouraging to have their support.

I was surprised to find when I googled to find information about adult children who disapprove of their parents or make their parents feel that everything the parents do is worthless and uninteresting. All the articles were about how parents should give unconditional approval and how children can spend their wholes lives trying to seek parents approval.

I agree it is so important to support and encourage children but when children become adults it would be helpful if they showed an interest in their parents' achievements. Several parents have told me how they have felt their children have never felt proud of them and they feel they have disappointed their child/children in some way.

"You will never gain anyone's approval by begging for it. When you stand confident in your own worth, respect follows." Mandy Hale

My friend is very confident about her own worth, but respect from her children does not follow. Nor does she beg but she would like respect.

All relationships are complex.

Do you find with adult children or other people, work colleagues, relatives that your life does not seem to interest them and your achievements of little concern to them?

Is that ok or do you continually seek their approval?

Or do you cope in other ways?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Jane SG Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 3:10am

Hi Leah, nice to be first to comment on your blog! This is an interesting view on parent/child relationships. I'm very fortunate that my children, aged 23,18 and 12 are interested and supportive in what I do, and me them! However I lack support from my 2 siblings, especially my remaining brother. I still seek his approval as he was the 'parent' to me in lots of ways when I was growing up. I have formed some unhealthy relationships in my life as a result. However I can see the patterns now. Have a good day Leah xxx

Jane SG Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 3:11am

Molly and TVFTFS I have replied to your comments from yesterday, thanks xx

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:34am

Jane SG Thanks for being the early bird commenter,It is a very interesting point about your siblings. Thanks again Jane x

LP Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 6:50pm

Hi Jane SG, Just to let you know that I've commented on yesterday's blog. LPx

Sally Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 7:10am

Leah, you have a gift: finding questions for us to ponder on what are very real issues, but not ones that people often air. Thanks for giving me some meaty thought here. It is good to have the opportunity to work this one out:
I do seek my children's approval ,and in the case of our very disabled son, the smiles tell me all I need to know. In the case of our daughter, I love and value her for the person she has become, and her opinion is highly regarded. She is very complimentary of my achievements and this is lovely. I also know that she gives advice and shows disfavour if she thinks something isn't right/ I am not being right. I reflect, & ultimately make my own decision. Nevertheless, useful to have. I am truly blessed.
I admit though, that in my parents' case, this was not the case: we children were excluded to a large extent from their world, as it was / tended to be the case back then, therefore couldn't or didn't apppreciate their achievements. Perhaps this was wrong of us.
I do tend to think though, that you often reap what you sow... or am I just a very fortunate person?
I shall throw the ball back in your court, Leah . Are children born to become the adults they do become, or is nurture at the crux of the matter?
Thank you most sincerely once again, Leah. Have a nice day.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:38am

Sally Thanks for your thoughtful comment. The old nature/nurture debate. I think it is a bit of both. Thanks for your kind words.

Orangeblossom Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 7:25am

Hi Leah I have battled to win my mother's approval but when I stopped fretting about it, the relationship started growing better. I wonder whether she also has the same problem about needing & wanting to be accepted by me. Like Jane SG my only brother has no time for me at all. That hurts lots but I am learning to live with it. I can do no other.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:42am

Thanks Orangebloosm for your comment. I think is good that's when you stopped fretting your relationship with your mum improved. I am sorry about your brother..

Jul Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:25am

Hello Leah. I really connect with this blog in relation to my two children, one in particular who doesn't seem at all interested in my life and yet she depends on us to a large extent for support and childcare. If I text her to tell her what we have been up to, in very few words and I don't feel the need to impress her, just tell her so she knows where we are, she will totally ignore it and tell me something about what she is up to. To which I will of course respond! She is incredibly successful in her career and I know (she tells me) she hasn't time to worry about unimportant stuff. Our other child is very different, always showing interest in our lives so I guess it's just different personalities. But I did until very recently seek approval from my daughter I guess because I never got it! Now I have decided not to and it seems to be working (with a few blips here and there). I feel better about myself and possibly she respects me more for not kowtowing to her every need. I love her very much of course. Your academically successful friend Leah...gosh what a lot of qualifications. I am sorry she feels like this but I know where she is coming from. I agree with Sally when she says you always write blogs which are obvious in their subject matter but not often written about. Jul xx

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:46am

Jul, Thanks for your detailed comment and your honesty in examining your relationships with your children It is fascinating to see how different 2 children can be. I am glad that stopping the seeking approval strategy works for you. Thanks again for your kind words.

Hopeful One Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:58am

Hi Leah- an interesting blog . Transectional Analysis(a psycho therapeutic model) looks at us as made up of adult/parent/child components.People we interact with have a similar make up. Thus when we have an issue like approval as in your blog then the 'transaction' ( in this case approval) with the significant other needs to occur at the same level i e adult/adult, parent/parent, child/child.If there is a mismatch then both parties will experience difficulties. It is a complex subject but we could ask ourselves'Are they talking to me and am I talking to them at the same level?

Our laugh today is topical.

A public school teacher was detained today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator. At a morning press conference, the Attorney General said he believed the man was a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction. "Al-gebra is a problem for us", the Attorney General said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values."

Norman Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:31am

Thanks for that HO! My take on that is that the Arabic word Al-gebra reminds us of the role that Islamic libraries played in preserving the science of the Greeks.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:49am

Hopeful one, Thanks for your interesting interpretation of the blog. Transactional Analysis was very popular when i was a teenager and am surprised it is still popular. You have given me lots to think about. Thanks for the joke.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:51am

Norman, Thanks for reminding us of the role Arabicworld played in maths and science. Nice to read your comment.

Hopeful One Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 12:59pm

Hi Guys- thanks for your comments. Yes Transactional Analysis is still being used by some psychotherapist/counsellers.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:24pm

Hopeful I think I still have a copy in my shop but as I have had it for ten years and it has not sold so I thought it was out of fashion- maybe in Australia!!

Norman Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:27am


Ah! the famous "external locus of validation" (see: now that I've intellectualised it I can deal with it...)

My son never appreciated my achievements until he went to University and began to understand them. Now that he is a step-parent he understands how difficult child-rearing is. My parents wanted to to get good exam results, get a job in the Civil Service, and marry a nice local girl. Everything I wanted to do, and everything I have achieved, was beyond their world.

A lot of this is due to marketing: it is interesting that young people are abandoning Facebook because their parents are taking it up: it is therefore no longer "cool," and my nice cool pint of flavourful real ale is "uncool" compared to overpriced, over-chilled, tasteless "lager."

Your friend should feel proud of her achievements, and if the children are so wrapped up in themselves then let them be and get on with her own life.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 9:57am

Norman, Thanks for your comment. I think each generation tries to be different from the previous one. I think it is human nature to want one's children to take an interest in their parents' life .

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 10:10am

Just want to say hi that I am thinking of you.
Whenever I hear about Scotland in the news I ca see you in. Kilt and a quilt. Hugs xx

The Gardener Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 10:27am

Oh, HO, that joke! To one who never got to grips with x and y, it brought back memories, with chemistry, of extreme academic failure - got a mark for knowing my name, I think. Leah, fascinating. I think my kids attitude is 'What the devil will she get up to next? Will it be embarrassing? Dangerous? Fun?' One could see them as taking me for granted, given following example. Third son was coming from France for his 21st birthday - boat from St Malo cancelled, hitch to Cherbourg (he had a French girl with him) arriving at Portsmouth the Queen had been cluttering up the place with a naval review, all late. Mr G arrived with them after 11 p.m, by which time a d-in-law was plastered beyond recall, and my Ma was complaining about everything. A 5-course meal was embarked upon. When we got to cake and toasts, around 4 a.m, I turned to 2nd son and said 'You will have to take over, I can't cope'. I'll never forget his face 'I've never seen you when you can't cope' (he was then 25!) I would love to hear more from the family - a carer's life is a rather lonely one. But, over the years, with all our moves, and the state of the houses we bought, the whole family was involved, so perhaps in that way (and being farmers) our lives were much more closely intertwined. I think I've said before here, the children grumbled that Mr G only criticised, never praised, yet he craves praise for himself. My mother, m-in-law and b-in-law were horrendous, I could do nothing right. Probably made me more bloody-minded than I might have been.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 11:01am

Gardener Your comments are s full of detail and fascinating anecdotes. I think mu children's are like yours thinking what will she get up to next? I think we all crave praise even if we cant give it,

Poppy Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 10:35am

I can see the cycle of desired approvals from multi-generations in my family. It seems as though reciprocal respect becomes more important to both sides of the parent-child relationship as the children grow older.

During my working years, my children appeared to respect and almost admire my career choices and achievements. Since I have become disabled, due to serious mental health issues, my children seem to pity and avoid me. I worry that, without my husband, I would have no one to care for me. This blog post has been extremely thought-provoking for me.

As for my own mother, who went to university then started her own career when I was in secondary school, I have tremendous respect for her accomplishments. She is 83 and confines to work as an expert tax accountant. She, too, has come to avoid me, and has no time to visit me or assist my husband.

My father gave his love and approval to me as a result of my achievements, which I earned faithfully as a child and teen living at home. However, my adult choices pleased him not, and we had an extraordinarily rocky relationship for the remainder of his life.

I think what hurts more is approval that is withdrawn, being ignored as unimportant, shame, and pity.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 11:08am

Poppy Thanks for your commen. I found it moving how your children trea you now. Do you think they are afraid of your illness and can't express their feelings? THank you for your revealing honesty, Being ignored and being pitied hurts.Hugs Leah xx

The Gardener Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 10:48am

Oh Poppy - getting old and ill! The British government has said recently that families should take more charge of their elderly patients - I feel for you very much. We are glad, more, smug, that we have chosen France, care, at the moment, is better and cheaper. Your father's attitude is interesting, and sad. A couple we knew pushed their children so hard that there were some years of estrangement. If they did not come top of everything, including sport, they'd failed. Then their high-flying daughter, after attending a wedding in Savvanah, went to sea with a modern pirate! I must say we indulged in wicked mirth at the father's reaction.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 11:14am

Gardener I think countries have their pros and cons concerning health for everyone including Leederville patients. Thanks for your thought. Going to see with a modern pirate only you could out that in a comment!!

Wyvern Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 11:50am

This is such an interesting blog and thread of comments; thank you all.
My tuppence-worth: In former days I certainly sought approval, often witheld from especially parents. Not altogether undeservedly so. However in recent years I have come to recognise that their love for me outweighed any disapproval. I have the same with my sons. I don't like but have to accept younger son's behavious and choices, but I love him so continue to give what support I can in hope that eventually he will sort himself out. I wish only for his happiness. I have a letter from my father written years ago in which he expressed the very same wish.
Approval from my sons? I just want them to accept me for who I am, neither approve nor disapprove. I think they do. Even the younger one no longer tries to tell me what to do!

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:29pm

Wyvern Thanks for your insightful, detailed and fascinating reply. I think supporting a loved one while not agreeing their choices is a difficult thing to do. I agree wanting to be accepted for who we are is something to aim for.

LP Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 6:37pm

Hi Leah,
As teenagers my kids, especially my daughter have cringed with embarrassment if I step out of line, coolwise! The worst possible offense is for me or anyone of an older generation to try to be. Cool though, so we cant win! No point in doing anything but laughing about it at the moment, I've never thought about how the dynamic might change as they and I get older.
My sister and I have been fairly disapproving of our parent's lack of motivation to do almost anything for themselves and recent hospitalisation has given them both the wake up call needed to change their very unhealthy lifestyle choices. Needing our help has also enabled us to introduce a few healthier ones. They're doing well, with alot of or time and effort, but Left to get on with it I'm pretty sure they'd revert back to old habits.
I know I'm being very judgemental. It's hard having to do things for people knowing that their illhealth has been self inflicted and are things that they could do for themselves, or could have if they hadnt given up bothering to try.
So here I am, in my 50's completely diapproving of my parents. I'd rather not be involved to be honest, but of course am grateful for all that they did, let me re phrase that alot of the things that they did for us as kids.
I dont think they do seek our approval, or maybe they do and I've just not thought about it.
Thank you for a really interesting blog Leah. LP xx

LP Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 6:57pm

Ps, I have also thought of my self as a people pleasure, which seems a very negative self judgement. I was thinking today though, that alot of the time I do things that I want to do to please myself and sure it's lovely if people approve, but actually even if they didn't I'd want to do them anyway! So maybe it's just how we see things and what we may perceive as shortcomings, could be seen in a completely different way. Being gentle with ourselves is the way to go. Xx

LP Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 6:59pm

Sorry pleaser not pleasure! :))

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:35pm

LP Thanks for your honest and thought provoking comment. I think caring for older parents has many problems. I suppose we can't change the past habits but now at least your parents are changing. I can sense your frustration. When my children were younger they would list all the embarrassing tings I had done , I realised I was an embarrassment just by being their mum. That is an interesting point about not being aware if someone is seeking your approval. We are acutely aware if we seek another's approval in vain. Thanks so much again for your comment.

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:39pm

Tanks for your PS. I often think of another point once I touch the reply button too! It is true it is about perception. I was told a loved one that I felt they were not proud of me and disapproved but I was told I had it all wrong. I agree being kind and gentle with ourselves and non judgmental with others are too things to aim for. I am working on both!

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:40pm

LP aren't typos/predict text funny. An extra letter and a rearrangement of other letters makes o much difference to the meaning.!! I like it when my typos make up a fin new word and then I make up a meaning for it.

LP Sat, Mar 25th 2017 @ 12:13am

:) x

Mary Wednesday Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 7:10pm

Thought provoking indeed, Leah.
Not just intergenerational support, but also support within marriage and other partnerships. My first husband, I always felt, did not value me for the things I could do, but always focussed on my weaker areas. My lovely second husband admires me for the skills and talents I do have. He thinks it wonderful that I can draw, make beautiful cards, write calligraphy, make fancy dress clothes and cook a meal from almost nothing. I think it's wonderful that he can organise insurance, holidays and the bank accounts! My children too, celebrate these things - which is lovely. I try hard to admire and support them for attributes other than academic and sporting achievements; to encourage them to be well rounded, hardworking, positive, compassionate people.
I admire my mother tremendously. She was a single mother (widowed by suicide) when it was rather suspect to be so, and she brought us up on very little money but with a lot of love and discipline. Although, I always said that I never rebelled because my mother always let me do whatever I wanted. I suppose she supported and facilitated my choices, even if she did not always agree with them. She is also creative and makes the most amazing patchwork quilts which are truly works of art.
I have always been the one the family have worried about. They have worried about my mental health and about my poor choice in men (before the current husband). They worry that I'm not good with money (the rest of the family make every pound scream for mercy) and they view my writing with the deepest suspicion while trying terribly hard to say something nice (it's painful to see).It's interesting that the world sees us one way and our family another. Even if I sell thousands of books (eventually) my family will always worry that I haven't had a proper job since I gave up being an accountant!

Leah Fri, Mar 24th 2017 @ 8:46pm

Mary Your openness and refelection in your comment has moved me and given a lot to think about. It is great when we can appreciate skills iothers and they in ourselves. I think it is also to be valued for just who we are because skills can be lost and change. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman who realised and accepted who you were. It is funny how family can view us differently from others. I have heard of quite famous writers whose family have wanted to know when they were getting a real job! Take care

Leah Sat, Mar 25th 2017 @ 3:04am

Thank you Thank you. Thanks for taking time to reply and for all the wonderful comments. I am often surprised how people have different responses to my blog. It makes me think and challenges me.
Thanks for reading my blog and if you would like to add a reply it is never too late.

Sheena Sat, Mar 25th 2017 @ 9:51am

Hi Leah,Very late (now Saturday, 25th!) but I have to respond! It took me 5 decades to realise that I could be myself and do as I expected other people to do (what they feel is right for them) and that if I had yet to gain my parents' approval or feeling of belonging - well it wasn't going to change. Of course we all live in communities and societies that we should respect - both groups and each individual. Families are the people we choose to have close. Relationships have to be reciprocal. My own offspring are delighted to see my achievements, just as I am still, as ever, thrilled for them when they achieve. Sheena

Leah Sat, Mar 25th 2017 @ 10:26am

Sheena Never too late to comment and always welcome Sheena. I Have been around for six decades and am still working it all out and wondering when the wisdom will start. Sometimes relationship are one sided and that is frustrating. I am so glad you took time to comment. AS I said never too late.

Benjamin Sat, Mar 25th 2017 @ 11:37am

So, I'm going to be on the side of this that might not be popular; in discussions with my father, who has worked for the same very large company since high school and has risen to fairly high ranks within it, I have expressed that I think he hasn't really accomplished much. Why?

I know people at the lower ranks. They see how much laziness, sloppiness, poor initiative, and waste there is. The client is frequently the government, and between the client and the contractor, things don't get done or get poorly and huge amounts of money changes hands. My father is proud of saving the company large sums here and there, over the years, of weathering some very rough times and poor leadership, and contributing to the organization. I see the value of the organization to society as low or negative.

Where things heat up is that I don't always keep a job; if I feel like the environment isn't letting things get done - I quit. Then, naturally, I don't have a job for a bit, and then I find another to try some more. Maybe the larger enterprise I contribute to (biomedical science) isn't in great health either, but individual contributions have a life of their own, so to speak.

I don't feel that his experience is much of a measure of success. That is naturally a source of disagreement. It is also a generational gap. The organization, that my grandfather was also part of, and uncles, was once great and is now part of a sick (meaning, ill, ailing) system. Nobody has managed to remedy that, and I'm disinclined to think that the people in that organization are even trying; it's outside their mission statement and field of vision.

So. Long response, but perhaps it sheds light on another case of intergenerational achievement valuation.

Leah Sat, Mar 25th 2017 @ 9:27pm

Thank you Benjamin for your considered reply. You describe a very interesting situation. I can understand how you have different values from your father and how that would lead to disagreements. AS others have commented it is possible to accept a loved one's choices without agreeing with them. Thank you for your contribution and offering a different perspective. It has provided a lot to think about.

Molly Sun, Mar 26th 2017 @ 11:25pm

Hi Leah. I've just been catching up with blogs and comments and there is so much I could say on this one, in particular, I'm glad I don't have children! I have issues with siblings, nieces etc and I guess I have always seeked approval and failed miserably. Personalities do come into it I guess, and I could go on and on but I'm still not really feeling like writing (unusual for me) just wanted to acknowledge your blog as it really was an interesting one and a new perspective on things and a learning curve xx

Leah Mon, Mar 27th 2017 @ 1:18am

Molly I am glad you made the effort to wrote although you did not feel like writing, (I know that feeling that is why I usually write a couple of blogs at a time!) I find your insights always make me think. I hope you find your writing muse soon.

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