“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?
Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people,
I would not be a servant of Christ.” ~Galatians 1:10
The first people children seek approval from are their parents; they are their first teacher, mentor, and provider. A child’s primary relationship is with the mother in the nine months that we carry them in our womb. As the child grows up, the first person they want to please is their parents in everything they do. They never want to disappoint us; that’s why they hide a terrible report from school or worry about losing a game. We can be the worse parent, but when we show up for their events, it brings a big smile to their face. A cry from the heart, “look what I did!” Nothing else matters, but your demonstration of approval. Our presence when it counts validates their identity. The longing to know that we matter in the lives of others, start in our childhood. We seek our parents’ approval!
The problem is when the parent does not validate a child, they will continuously think they have to perform or earn something to be desirable. Children will carry this feeling of failure into adulthood, living in fear of rejection, never being accepted, or never being seen for who they are. They are left to develop a false sense of self, character, even if it is negative. If it will get the child some attention or noticed, they will change their identity. They will seek approval from whoever or wherever they can get it. In actuality, they are trying to cover up their feelings of “I am a screwup,” or “I always mess things up.” The child carries the same mentality into adulthood received from the perceived impact of their parents, who are the most important people in their lives.
Mothers, if you grew up with a false identity, then take heed and seek God who knows the plans He has for you, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). Why? So, we do not pass down the same emotional trait to our children. A mother provides love, guidance, and acceptance to her children while protecting them and letting them know their worth. Most importantly, we have to enhance the psychological and spiritual well-being of our children right from the start. We understand how it felt never to get our parents’ approval and the effects of it. Therefore, we must receive healing and know that as children of God, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1Peter 2:9).
Moreover, fathers shoulder the burden of lost identity in our children as well. His presence, support, and validation are needed as much as their mother. A father’s absence is damaging to both little girls and boys. By the time children are adolescents, they do not feel complete or whole, and out of that comes the feelings of rejection, anger, and self-destruction. For those fathers that are present, can cause the same damage by not accepting their children for who they are or only recognize the negative in them. Although today, more fathers are showing up and involved in their children’s lives, for that, I applaud you, however, let your presence be honorable.
I Am Approved: Finding Him
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and
precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual
house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable
to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
Even the most outgoing person can still be lacking something, which brings to mind this girl, Rachel, that I knew growing up. She was the only girl in her family out of seven brothers. Rachel was one of the most popular girls in school. She had a special kind of joy carried on the inside that couldn’t help show on the outside. Rachel just plain and simply enjoyed life. It appeared that she was happy all the time, yet something was missing. I believed she was seeking approval, most of all, from her father, particularly when she started dating. I could see it in her competitiveness while playing sports or any physical activities where she was involved. Looks were especially important to her, which means she did not leave the house without looking her best. My observation comes more from her father’s point of view, but I liked her just the same because we talked, and I understood her. Rachel’s father would see me, and began to talk about how she displeased him in some of her actions. For some reason, he would compare the two of us, which did not make any sense to me because I was not an angel.
I believe her father’s dissatisfaction drove her into the arms of the wrong boys that disappointed him even the more. The boy she got pregnant by made her cry all the time, compounded with her father’s disapproval; that was not a good mix. I watched her continue to search for a fulfilled and meaningful life in the arms of a guy she married that I disliked. I could not bring myself to attend the marriage ceremony. He was jealous of her young son because he was superficial and materialistic. I would see him at the nightclubs, and he would lie to her about his whereabouts that night. Every time I would visit her, he would come in and start an argument. Of course, I would leave and would hear my name during their discussion from the streets. She could not buy her son anything without him getting mad if she did not get something for him. By the way, Rachel had to end that marriage. I know I am not supposed to be happy, but well, I was.
What does this mean for me? I had to hear another conversation with her father. This routine had to go another way, so I began to point out her good qualities to him to put the talks in perspective. At this time, my parents had divorced, my father and I had a broken relationship, and he disowned me for having a baby. Rachel and I were young with a child. I wondered if my father said that I was his child in name only because I disappointed him. Please do not get me wrong, Rachel’s father and mine truly did love us. Her father expressed that to me as well. I am talking about his disappointments that led her to go through the process of self-discovery poorly, which is something most of us do.
Alright, let’s move on! Finally, Rachel found the love of her life, and he was a bad boy. She seemed to be so happy with this guy, and I was delighted for her. He was the boy our parents told us to stay away from or else. You know the one with the fancy car, fast-life, and a smile that can melt your insides.
Yes, she was hooked, lined, and sinker as the saying goes. The relationship really made her father mad because as he told me of the dangerous things the boyfriend did and made her a part of as they traveled together. Her father was afraid of the danger this relationship would put her in. She did not care about the consequences of his street life or how it would affect her position as a mother. His disappointment this time was the fear for her life. I could not do anything but be there for her, especially at the time of her happiness. At the time, she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this man, which eventually led to 27 years of marriage and a beautiful baby girl. I cannot end this story without stating that he did leave the street life to become a devoted husband and father. I must also report that eventually, Rachel’s father did give her his approval and told her, “he was proud of her” before he passed away. Oh, and yes, before my father died, he smiled at me with approval, and his last words to me were, “Thanks, baby girl.”
Hold on! That was the story of a girl seeking her father’s approval. However, I was a girl seeking my mother’s approval. When my parents divorced, my mother had changed. I could do nothing right in her eyes. We argued all the time, and she called me harsh names. No matter what, I still kept seeking solace in her presence. I began to date a neighborhood boy and got pregnant. My mother was not happy and did not like the boy. He was a guy that my mom disapproved of, which is more than likely why I dated him. Her negative response kept me in the relationship. However, my father’s influence in my life got me out of my relationship with him.
In a comparison of the two men in my life, my father worked two jobs to support us, and family meant everything to him. My child’s father would not work or do anything with his life and ran out on his daughter. He did not even show up for her birth. I would ask him to watch our child while I went to work to find him standing outside my job with the baby because his family did not accept her in their lives. My parents did not raise me this way, and I was not going to put my child through that kind of heartache. Therefore, I had to go my separate way and break up with him. When my daughter turned 13 years old, she began to have misplaced anger and fantasize about a dad that was not in her life. Anger that she still holds against her father until this day. Anger that caused her to punch on her boyfriends as though she was hitting her father. A wave of anger that caused her to go after the wrong boys. However, through help and self-awareness to recognize who she was angry with and now have a long-term loving relationship with her children’s father.
A Mother’s Lesson
Not every story has a happy ending, so be careful and choose wisely. There were countless young mothers that I knew fell for boys describe above, and their story was far from being happy. Most of them became hooked on drugs, prostituted, or physically abused. Some, when the police caught up with their mate, seized all their property, assets, and money, which left the girls with nothing. Then some men used these young mothers’ apartments as a place to prepare their drugs or became a trap house. The mothers and children are put in very dangerous positions and the risk of losing their homes. To be a mother at a young age takes a lot of strength, determination, sacrifice, and ability to put the child first. It takes courage to say “no,” I do not want that for my life or my child. The majority of the time, what looks glamorous and appealing to us could be the worst thing for us. Ultimately, it will lead you down the road of despair with no ambition to walk back up the road. We must understand that when fathers accept their little girls, the process of self-discovery goes a whole lot easier, and they can live a more meaningful life. Otherwise, they grow up with all the hurts, arguments, and fights in their relationships are really with their father. Whether we want to believe it or not, we marry our fathers or our perception of him.
On another note worth mentioning, if a man has to compete with your child, then he is insecure. When you have children before entering another relationship with a man that is not your child’s father, the children are still your priority. Make sure your children like the new man in your life. If they do not, listen to why they don’t. In most cases, the child’s insight about that person is correct. Therefore, we must listen to our children, consider their opinion, and watch for any truth in what they say about that person.
Lastly, the emphasis on mothers here is because most are parenting alone for various reasons. Therefore, mothers, I implore you to “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:5-6).