My dad is my hero. I wish I could spend this entire post telling you about him. I’ve often joked that my ultimate goal in life is to be my dad with more hair (I’ll admit that joke lands a lot better, if you have seen my dad). But all teasing aside, I will consider myself lucky if I can become half the man and father that he is. Yet, it’s interesting, when I reflect back on how he has made such a vast impact on my life I arrive at a surprisingly simple conclusion:

The greatest gift my dad ever gave me was the freedom to live from his affirmation, not for it.

This gift did not come free. It was a gift that required a lot from him. It was only through years of thoughtful encouragement, intentional action, and an unknowable amount of self-sacrifice, but ultimately he was able to fully convince me of three things:

  1. He is proud of me.
  2. He loves me.
  3. He wants what is best for me.

There are three major ways that living from a place of affirmation changed my life (and might change your child’s life too):

1. It gave me a deeply rooted sense of identity.

There’s an old saying that claims, “It’s not so much about who you are, as it is about whose you are.” And while that is undoubtedly cliche, it contains a seed of truth. Your identity is rooted in the knowledge that you are loved and worth loving. That kind of knowledge only comes through experiencing and receiving affirmation.

When I think about identity, the image that comes to mind is a prince. A prince doesn’t really have any resources, yet he never acts out of scarcity. He doesn’t have any authority, yet his words carry weight and meaning. He doesn’t actually have any power, but he carries himself with the confidence that he is backed by someone with power. A son who is living from affirmation has a deeply rooted sense of identity.

2. It fostered the building of true confidence.

Confidence is the natural response to having a deeply rooted sense of identity. When your son experiences your affirmation it gives him the freedom to learn, take risks, fail, grow, and succeed. Each of those actions come from gaining experience.

By creating a safe environment for acquiring experience, you are fostering the building of confidence. Furthermore, this kind of confidence is not a cheap confidence, or bravado, but a true confidence, one that has been hard-earned.

3. It inspired purpose.

Living from a place of affirmation inspires purpose. Just as a deeply rooted sense of identity begets confidence; confidence begets purpose. Purpose is the sense of heading somewhere. It’s being on a mission. Purpose propels you forward. It gives you clarity and focus. It both gives you something to strive for and makes all of the striving worth it.

I think one of the most defining questions you can ask yourself as a parent is: “Do I want my kids living for my affirmation or from my affirmation?” Your answer to that question lies at the heart of your relationship with your children.