Recently I had lunch with a friend whose son goes to the same day school as my daughters and plays on the same soccer team as my son. Through the course of the lunch we talked about all the normal mom topics: what to cook for dinner, how school is going, how to discipline certain behaviors, work/home balance, and each other's kids.
When it came to kids we, what I feel is genuinely, like each other's kids! Both of us offered compliments on different things we admire in each other's children. At one point though, she made the comment "Gosh, it's so hard for us as moms to accept compliments on our kids." It wasn't until that very moment that I realized throughout our entire conversation I had offered a "yeah, but" for every compliment she offered. I am their mom, but I couldn't just accept a compliment for them!
I spent the next several DAYS thinking about this. Why do we feel the need to offer excuses for our kids? Aren't they pretty great? The more I thought about it, though, I do offer excuses after compliments for my kids all the time. And so do most of my friends.
For a while, I wondered if it was a good ol' Southern upbringing. We are in Memphis, one of the most iconic Southern cities, so maybe we were just brought up this way? Maybe it's not genteel to think your children are great. Well, not really. In fact, I remember being brought up that it was actually impolite to not accept a compliment when offered. Not to mention, I have a ton of friends who do the same thing and are not Southern. Back to the drawing board.
Then my mind wandered to a dark side. Do we really think our kids are terrible? We are the ones who have seen them throwing tantrums over things like their food touching on the plate, we know they NEVER flush the toilet when they go to the restroom, and we have seen them come to blows over whose turn it is with the favorite baby doll. Maybe we can't accept a compliment for our kids because we know the real them.
But after taking a trip down memory lane of all the terrible things I know my kids do, I realized I still think they are pretty great. A quick glance at my social media, and you will see that I really do think they hung the moon even though I know what little honey badgers they can be.
So why can't I accept a compliment for them? My next thoughts centered around humility. Perhaps we are too humble to accept compliments? If someone compliments our kids, they are by extension complimenting us, and we as parents are too humbled to accept the compliment. Parenthood, after all, is one big dose of humility. You never have it right. From the time they are newborn babies, to the rough teen years, even into adulthood, there are things you wish you would have done differently or you realize that you have flat-out done incorrectly. How can we accept a compliment on our parenting when we fail at it so often?
Parenthood, after all, is one big dose of humility. You never have it right. From the time they are newborn babies, to the rough teen years, even into adulthood, there are things you wish you would have done differently or realize you flat-out have done incorrectly. How can we accept a compliment on our parenting when we fail at it so often?
You know what though? It's not about us. It's about our kids. Someone offering a compliment to our kids is just that, a compliment for them, not us.
I know, I know, but WE are raising them. WE are teaching them. WE are guiding them. However, there is this little thing called free-will. We have it, and so do our kids. No matter what we teach our children, they have the ability to go with or against our teachings. When they make good choices and choose to go with our guidance, it should be praised! If your child treated someone really well on the playground and another parent says "Wow! Johnny was such a sweetheart when he helped Ben up!," say "Thank you. He is pretty great!"
Acknowledging your child's accomplishment doesn't make you a jerk any more than it makes you an all-star parent that your child chose that behavior. Savor the compliment for your child and know that, yes, you played a role in it, but overall, your kid is just pretty great.