Should we care if our children are likable? It seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course, we want for people to like our children, because if they don’t like our child then my goodness, what must that say about us?
As parents, and really just as people, we have this unnecessary need for complete strangers, acquaintances, and of course those close to us to both like and enjoy us AND our children. Why does it matter to me what the man sitting four rows down at the restaurant thinks of my kids? Well, finding my children less than pleasurable to be around must mean that he thinks I am a horrible parent, and that these hooligans that I call my own are nothing more than nuisances.
The Potential Problem
The problem with caring about the likability of our children is the same problem that arises when we care so much about the likability of ourselves — there will always be people who don’t like you because of the way you look, your personality, your opinions, or no reason whatsoever.
In an article by Marc Chernoff titled “21 Keys to Magnetic Likeability,” Chernoff starts off the article by stating that a person’s “true potential is enhanced by the sum of all people who like you”. UGH! I am not sure how I feel about this sentence. My first reaction is disgust at the mere thought of my potential being dependent upon anything other than myself. But then again, I kind of understand the perspective and the idea that nothing really good in this world gets done by one person acting alone.
Then you have Deborah Shane, author of “8 Assets to Boost Your Likeability” who contends that “likeability is a powerful, intangible super power to have”. Let me get this straight — I am expected to have and hold on to a superpower, and ensure that my children are being raised with it as well? Well, that seems like a lot of work…a lot of work for a sleep-deprived, over-stressed parent, doesn’t it?
With bookstores and Amazon stocked with plenty of books on likability such as “The Likeability Factor: How To Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams“, by Tim Sanders, and “Popular: The Power of Likability In A Status-Obsessed World,” by Mitch Prinstein, it’s no wonder why most of the general population find it imperative to strive for appealing personalities, and to raise genial and charming children in the eyes of other people.
The Conundrum Remains
Like I stated earlier, to me, likability is a conundrum. I get it. I get how and why it is important. But, I also infuriate myself when I think about the time that I’ve wasted worrying what others think about my kids or myself, and how I often base my self-worth on that. There has got to be some balance, right? Where is the middle ground?
I guess the problem lies in the fact that sometimes people, adults and children alike, have to sacrifice their authentic self for someone who is found to be more pleasing to others. Will Smith is even quoted as saying that he has trained himself “to illuminate the things in [his] personality that are likable and, to hide and protect the things that are less likable”. Is this being fake? Or alternatively, is it being smart and adaptive? This plagues me.
The Ultimate Goal
I guess for me, my ultimate goal for my children and for myself, is that we are respected — I care way more about that than us being admired or adored. And maybe, just maybe, if we focus less on ourselves and how well liked we are, and more on genuinely enjoying the people around us, we will actually increase our likability factor as a result.
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