Hey Mom. Careful with the Compliments!

You is smart. You is kind. You is important.

If you've seen The Help, you remember these lines. Aibileen Clark recited these words of love to the child whom she was responsible for taking care of . The child's own mother was dismissive. A little blond toddler with unkempt hair, the little girl appears to be lacking nurture and words of affirmation from her mama. We would never be that kind of mom.


We want our kids to feel loved and able. So we make mention of the beautiful things we recognize in them. Compliments are easy to give and they don't cost a thing.

Or do they?

Long ago I'd decided that I wouldn't compliment my daughters on their beauty. I didn't want their appearance to be something they focused too much on. I didn't want them comparing themselves to other girls. I didn't want their opinion of themselves to depend on good hair, the perfect waist size or a pretty face. Beauty that has value, we know, comes from the inside.

I did my best not to puff them up about how they looked. God has reminded us all that though man looks at the outward appearance, ... the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

But us mamas? We're good puffers. If we're not filling them with one kind of empty words, we'll often fill them with another. It comes natural to us.

Destruction is natural too.

After my recent observation of a mess up, I'm doing a major clean up on aisle nine.

I have instinctive inventory of the things I admire in my girls. We all do. I'm aware of their character strengths... and I let them know.

In one of my daughters, I see a resilient strength. Her ability to fall down and get back up, seemingly unscathed, is something to behold. I made sure and told her how much I love that about her. Not just once, but every time she tried something and it didn't go as planned. I saw it as a way of seeing victory in loss. I know you didn't get picked..., but the way you just continue to smile and try for the next thing inspires me.

I felt confident in this genius style of parenting until the time she didn't get picked for something she'd worked hard for and then didn't tell me for a day. Even worse she told her dad first before letting me know about this rejection she'd experienced.

In asking her why she didn't confide in me she told me that she didn't want to disappoint me. A "broken-up her" didn't fit into my that's my strong girl narrative. And because of that she waited to find her own strength before telling me.

And so here we have another post that presents a problem more than a clear answer. How do we affirm and encourage our children without making them shaky, without them thinking... I am (a good kid/ a strong kid/ a kind kid) but sometimes I'm not. And when I'm not, it's not ok. I've got a reputation to uphold... I don't want to be a disappointment. My parents can't handle that.

Surely our kids know we love them. We love them in their quirkiness and cranky stages. We love them in their failings, especially then.

Our love for them is independent of what we love about them. We can be open with them about their strengths, but we have to be open with them about their frailty too. We have to let them know, that we know they're weak sometimes. And that that's ok. Time has to be spent without them being the focus of the conversation at all.

And of course we have to recognize our own frailty as parents, making sure that we allow God to inform them of who they are. He does such a better job of it.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I have hope in Him."

(Lamentations 3:19-24)

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