Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

The Simon Cowell of Mothers.

I am … the Simon Cowell of Mothers.  Oh, it’s not a name that I came up with, but the nickname my daughter bestowed upon me when she was about 12 years old.  It turns out that it was, and this may surprise you, a compliment.  Sort of.


See, I was NOT the mommy who stood in the back of the classroom glowing with pride at the kindergarten autumn presentation where the little darlings reenacted a Thanksgiving feast made entirely out of construction paper (costumes and all).  To this day, the rustling of papers and staples still gives me the heebie-jeebies and totally ruined the appeal of those red and green paper chains that signify holiday cheer everywhere you go.


No, I have never thought that every little thing that every single child did was A-dor-able.  Not even my own.  I had a relative who could and would sit for hours as her daughter and friends did Living Room Improv, and when visiting their house I would find any excuse to leave the room and keep myself busy.  Seriously, I once hid in their powder room, decalcifying the valves behind the commode.  It was my version of the old arm-gnawing Coyote Ugly escape (look it up in the Urban Dictionary, if you must).  Sure there’s no cover charge like there is at the Comedy Store, but the lack of a two-drink minimum is criminal.  You’re 9 years old.  There’s only so much funny to be mined from your limited experience.  That and three-quarters of your stand-up routine consists of the words “like” and “you know” – Oh, pleasepleaseplease grow out of that.  Trust me, Babycakes, a decade later?  Your listening audience is going to thank you.


I’m not heartless.  I realize that my children may someday spend countless hours on a therapist’s sofa, regaling their counselor with colorful stories (no seriously, it will be entertaining) of their wacky respective childhoods. They’ll spew forth about the numerous hours I spent nagging them to grow up and be good, responsible citizens.  My daughter will tell how I once met her at the front door after school and traded her a pencil for a sponge, doing her elementary school homework (sorry Mrs. McBride), while she scrubbed the bathroom.  Telling her that if she didn’t use her brains, she’d have to depend on brawn to earn a living someday (despite the heartache, from that day forward she never complained about having to do homework again).  Yup, my kids will have lots of stories about what kind of parent I was and what kind I wasn’t, but what they won’t do (and I guaran-dang-tee you this) is question their true gifts.


Darwin said “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”  You don’t have to agree with the man’s concept of what was, what will be and where it came from… but that right there, is some wicked common sense.  There is something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect that came out of Cornell University where studies were done that apparently showed that for a given skill, incompetent people will


  • Tend to overestimate their level of skill
  • Fail to recognize genuine skill in others
  • Fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy
  • Recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.


Then in follow up studies, they found that people with actual true ability tended to underestimate their relative competence.  Another study from the same university found that people’s views of themselves shifted when “influenced by external cues.”  Am I the only person on the planet who elicits a loud and hearty, “Duh!” upon reading the results of some this stuff?


Building someone’s self-esteem is key to having them go out into the real world and utilize their talents.  If you have some youngsters at home, might I suggest a visit to to read about their 12 Ways to Help Your Child Build Self-Confidence?  This husband/wife doctor/nurse team knows of what they speak, raising eight children themselves and having coached millions through their 40+ pediatric books, articles and media appearance.  But as they themselves say, “You don’t need a degree in psychology to raise a confident child.”


No matter what age you’re dealing with, there are a few key elements to building someone up, so they have a chance to be the best that they can be (thank you


Don’t make personal verbal attacks

Even if you are clever in your ability to take a whack at something you don’t like, make a concentrated effort not to criticize.  Instead of calling someone lazy (SO not helpful), communicate your disappointment at what didn’t get done and then offer a smidge of compassion.  “Not keeping your room clean upsets me, even though I know you have a busy schedule – you’ve really got to make an effort.”


Give praise, but give it genuinely

No, really.  People, no matter their age, have pretty decent Crap Detectors and they will know if you’re just handing them a “Participant Ribbon” or not.  A job well done is deserving of heaping helpings of applause and accolades.  Something done half-heartedly… oh, don’t get me started.


Don’t ignore and rebuff

People (kids, too) need to know that their thoughts and opinions matter.  Carve time out of your schedule to focus, at the dinner table, before a meeting, whenever your attention is needed.  Communication and undivided attention go a long way to build self worth.


Let ‘em fall

You may not like it, but people need to make mistakes, suffer loss and learn to deal with the cards they’ve been dealt.  Tough love?  You betcha, but growth is painful and when someone discovers their strength and ability to be better at something they work at, up goes their self-confidence and understanding that it’s okay to make mistakes.  I didn’t make that up.  The brilliant Daniel Meier, assistant professor Elementary Education at SFSU said so.  And trust me, it applies to AARP members, too.


Be a positive example

Exhibit self-confidence of your own (do NOT put yourself down, avoid getting all snarkifed when crap happens) and those around you learn to mirror your responses.


This week, my daughter had to give a speech for a college class and in it she spoke about me being the Simon Cowell of Mothers (I’m not proud, people – just reporting the truth).  She openly told her classmates that when her mom told her that she had a talent for something, there was weight behind it and it must have really meant something.  In other words, there wasn’t an industrial high-velocity fan blowing up her skirt (my words, not hers).


Paula Abdul, reportedly said of Simon Cowell that even “his imaginary friends probably never wanted to play with him.”  A lot of people see him as a meanie.  Yes, but this is also a man who, as a judicator, said, “The object of (this) competition is not to be mean to the losers, but to find a winner.  The process makes you mean because you get frustrated.”


By calling me the Simon Cowell of Mothers, my daughter wasn’t saying that I was mean.  She was saying that Mom wouldn’t mislead her to do anything that would elicit eye-rolling, watch-watching, “That’s nice, dear” commentary.  She was saying that Mom asked for honest self-evaluation, a spotlight on the strong points, talents and, no matter how difficult… the deficits.  She grew up with a Mom who said to use and do whatever it took to build upon the gifts you were given and spackle up whatever holes you do have to make you stronger.  This mean Mom has always said do what you love, love what you do and build upon your Gott in Himmel given gifts to make the world a better place — and I don’t know if you noticed, but the world is a lot more Simon Cowell than I could ever be.


Judge a tree from its fruit, not from its leaves.” – Euripides

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