Today, it’s an honor to host author Nicole Lataif for some thoughts on over-complimenting our kids. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about it quite like this (and I’m still processing some of the things Nicole suggests). What do you think?
Call 911! Our Kids Are Drowning in a Sea of Compliments!
“You are so smart! How did you read that book so fast?”
“You are GORGEOUS! Look at those eyes! You could be a model!”
“You are such a great athlete! I heard that you are the fastest runner in your class!”
Many of us have said them and we’ve all heard them. Children are drowning in a sea of well-intentioned, misdirected compliments. The lifeboat?
Words matter. When we exclude Christ from a compliment, we are saying, “YOU are great.” We should be saying, “HE is doing great things in you.”
When you talk to a small child, remember that you are talking to a child who is both body and soul. There is more to a child than they—or we—can see. Christ resides in them and they are growing and learning about who they are. The younger the child, the more important it is to choose your words carefully. When we compliment a child, they take it to heart!
Our words and actions should remind kids that our highest purpose in life is fulfilled through loving God and loving others, not in receiving compliments or achieving random “goals,” however impressive.
I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t receive compliments or learn to set goals. I’m saying that how we compliment is important. I’m saying that setting goals should be a result of prayer and discernment, not for accolades or personal ‘satisfaction.’
If you are going to tell a girl that she is beautiful (which you SHOULD!), consider how you say it. How wonderful would it be if she knew that she is beautiful FIRST because of how much God loves her. The man who will love her someday will love her in spite of her big nose or funny laugh or quirky behaviors (just ask my fiancée…). When she knows that Christ lives within her, she will know why she is truly beautiful.
If you are going to tell a kid that he’s smart, make sure he knows that he is smart because God gifted him with intelligence. Remind him that he will need to use his strong mind to develop his gifts and talents to honor God.
If a kid is a fantastic athlete, most likely he has leadership skills. Instead of comparing him to other children, consider highlighting how he can be an example of a hard worker to others. Remind him that he is a hard worker because he has a gift and if used properly, will honor God.
If children learn at an early age to honor God with their gifts and talents, setting goals and a life-path through prayer and discernment will come more naturally for them down the road. Help to keep kids learn humility and how to focus on the virtue within their achievements.
We are all a work in progress, but Christ within us is where our true happiness, peace, and vocations lie.
Nicole Lataif is the Founder and Editor of KidsFaithGarden.com and Author of the 2013 Catholic Press Association Award and 2013 Christopher Award winning book Forever You: A Book About Your Soul and Body, published by Pauline Books & Media. Forever You is also available in Spanish as Siempre Tu. Her second book, I Forgive You: Love We Can Hear, Ask For and Give, teaches kids ages 4-8 what forgiveness is all about. Nicole is available for speaking engagements, school visits, interviews, and guest blogging. Media inquires may be sent to email@example.com.
I think the intention here is great, but as a child who grew up with people around me talking like this, I’m going to say that it robs a child from being rightfully rewarded by praise for working hard or having natural intelligence. You can praise effort as opposed to result with the same effect, eg, “great work on the details here I can see you worked really hard, do you think you can get even more detail on this?” vs “wow, you’re the most amazing artist ever”. And this approach does not make it sound like your effort wasn’t important because God gave you the thing (intelligence, detail orientedness, etc) so you should be grateful. That approach just made me feel like my effort was pointless, because no matter how hard I worked only God mattered to my parents and my efforts were viewed as incidental. Just a caution.
Hello, Piper! Thank you for your response. I completely understand your perspective and I’m sorry that in your home you felt robbed of being rightfully rewarded for working hard or having natural intelligence. Of course, parents should be careful to not take this approach to the extreme of the other direction. My intention in this article was to caution parents against raising their children to be prideful adults. Humility is taught first in the home and I think there is a way to compliment a child without overdoing it. I hear many parents go overboard with compliments, brag incessantly about their children, compare children to each other kids, and simply miss the point that God gave their children every gift they have. HOWEVER, I think a child could and should be praised for developing God’s gifts, working hard to achieve something, turning their talents into excellence and using their gifts for good. In a non-extreme situation, there is a balance that can be met. Children should be encouraged along this long road of life and built-up to get credit where credit is due, but too much emphasis on achievements without some discussion about God’s role in those achievements will make for adults and teens who struggle with pride. There is a soft, careful way to approach children in this manner, showing them love and kindness and that is what I am advocating for. I am grateful for your response and hope that this clarifies it a bit for you.