I never say something after reading one article about a topic– or even two. I usually don’t even touch it if it seems to be a minority opinion that carries little weight. But this article right here was the article that broke the camel’s back and opened the flood gates to my blog. Big surprise there 😉
I’ve already counted about ten writers who have written on the subject of praise and compliments toward children and everything I’ve read has the same opinion. Compliments, they say, can hold a child back. Saying “You’re so smart with math!” can make a child put less effort into that subject. Saying “Wow you look pretty!” can make a child feel that all they’re worth is what they look like.
Yes, you’ve probably guessed it. About right now I’m rolling my eyes.
And that’s because this new trendy parenting technique is bogus.
No, I’m not a mom yet and many people would probably tell me I don’t have any room to talk or to give pointers. That’s a fair statement, I suppose, but seeing as how I was once a child and I lead a group of children at church and I did my fair share of child rearing with my little sister growing up and my classroom-size of nieces and nephews I have a teeny bit of room to share my thoughts. So here we go.
Don’t follow the trend. Compliment your child for GOODNESS sake. It won’t kill them. It won’t make them toss aside their interests. It won’t make them turn to a life of drugs or sex. It will only let them know they are appreciated and loved and NOTICED. And that has never been unhealthy. It will never be a bad thing to point out a talent, to compliment a new pretty Easter dress, or to spend the car ride home after soccer practice letting your boy know that his kicks are getting so darn good. It has never hurt and frankly never will.
My favorite part of my growing up was my parents’ ability to always share what they loved about us. My dad would mention how good my reading was and in turn I devoured every book and wanted to be a BETTER reader for him. My mom would tell me how pretty I was and I decided that yes, I was. And so when middle school came and someone said otherwise I didn’t believe it. My grandma, I remember, would sit with me as I wrote stories in my notepad, and she told me I was her favorite writer. And I’ve never stopped writing. I also never let anyone deter me.
The compliments, some of these articles state, should simply be tailored. Instead of my parents telling me what a great writer I am the writers claim that they should have made a comment about how much effort I put into my writing instead and what a great ambition that is. That’s ridiculous, to put it mildly.
Your kid will never die from kind words. No one ever will.
Compliments in excess, I’ve seen, can harm a child. I’ll admit to that. We should never build children made of egos, entitlement, or pride that makes them peer down their noses at other children. But our words should be crafted to urge them on in their passions and to help mold and shape the self-esteem and confidence that they’ll carry for the rest of their lives.
Well, there have been studies, Kayla, you might say. It’s right there in black and white that children shrink away from talents and responsibility or feel self-conscious when you compliment or praise them.
And it’s true I’m no psychologist. But what I DO know is that when I tell my neice Rachel that her fiery red hair is the prettiest color I’ve ever seen she tends to glow. When I tell my primary kids that they are amazing listeners, they tend to listen more intently.
Kids are impressionable, vulnerable spirits that need to be molded and formed in one way or another. The world will try to form them, at some point, when you aren’t looking. The world tell your child she’s fat. The world will tell your boy he runs like a girl or is too skinny to have girls like him. The world will tell our kids that they’re dumb or slow or not as good as the others. They will hear enough from the world.
They need to hear from us first.
And that needs to sound beautiful.