In The New York Times' Bestselling book Kitchen Table Wisdom, (©1996) the author, Rachel Naomi Remen M.D., wrote: "The life in us is diminished by judgment. Our own self-judgment or the judgment of others... Judgment does not only take the form of criticism. Approval is also a form of judgment.... It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it."
According to this wisdom, which I find really eye-opening as a mom, constantly giving a kid approval can be as stress provoking as cutting them down. Making a child feel that they need to constantly earn your approval to be a "good" person is really hard on them. It can make them feel that who they really are, as an individual, is not "good" enough. In fact, it can make their whole focus in life become one of gaining approval. From parents, from teachers, from friends and even strangers. And that is not a nice way to live, nor does it foster self-confidence in any way.
If someone said to you, today: "You did not cook that tuna casserole properly. Make it exactly as I tell you to. Then I'll tell you that you did a good job," you would probably tell them to get lost (I would, at least). But isn't this kind of what we are telling our kids, when we say things like "don't do x that, way; THIS the way to do it"? Sure, our children need to be shown how to tie shoes and brush teeth the "right" way when they are little. They need to be taught how to be respectful and behave and listen to others, too. But once they are approaching teen-age, and have mastered basic social, safety, health and hygiene skills, maybe we are not doing them a favor by constantly approving (or not) of every thing they do. Maybe we are pushing them into become people-pleasers, and to feel judged and in need of others' approval to feel secure and confident, instead of teaching them to find their own way, their own inner strength, and their own individuality and unique way of living their lives.
So unless you are helping your daughter with math homework, when there really is only one right answer, the next time she asks you if she's doing something right, or is looking for your approval or someone's approval, give her a break from trying to please others and trying to be whoever she thinks others want her to be, and help her to just be the best her she can be, to love who she is, and how she does things. Encourage her to make up her own version of tuna casserole, in other words, and let her know how proud you are of who she is, as an individual and wonderfully unique girl.
Do your daughters seek approval often, and could you help them gain confidence by encouraging their individuality more?