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by Ronald A. Rowe | February 4th, 2011 | Elementary

We all love to get compliments. Whether it’s your clothes or your car or your penmanship – you know you love to hear good things about you and your stuff. There is nothing that I love to hear more than a compliment about my children. Whether it’s about his or her looks, athletic prowess, intellectual capacity, sundry other skills, or demeanor, it warms a parent’s heart to hear an un-obliged third party offer up praises for our children.

There is a right way and a wrong way to accept a compliment, especially when the subject of the praise is within earshot. Graciousness is always appropriate, particularly if the compliment-er is the parent of another child engaged in the same activity. “Yep, my boy sure whupped up on your boy,” is not the gracious answer, even when it’s true.

That doesn’t mean we should throw an insincere compliment back. If you daughter sang a show-stopping solo and the compliment-er’s daughter was in the back row of the chorus, responding with a “Oh, little Susie was great, too” will probably come off as insincere at best and patronizing at worst. A better tactic would be to accept the compliment with sincere thanks and offer back some praise for the program overall.

The biggest compliment-related mistake I’ve seen in my years working with youth is the compliment deflection/redirect. It typically involves children from rough upbringings with fragile self-image and it goes something like this:

Youth Worker: “Mrs. Smith, Little Johnny sure was a big help tonight. He cleaned up the game area without even being asked.”
Mrs. Smith: “Really? I wish he was half as helpful at home. You should see the mess in his room!”

No one (I hope) would ever intentionally snatch a compliment away from a child, but it happens more than you might think. As parents, we need to be alert to never let a moment of aggravation or frustration overwhelm our good sense.

One final note on compliments: if your child is not present for the compliment be sure to pass it on, preferably in front of your spouse or grandma and grandpa – anyone who will ooh and ahh to amplify the joy your child receives.

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