It feels so good to get that affirmation in terms of a pat on the back or the enthusiastic atta boy/ atta girl– the proverbial thumbs up.
But… there are some compliments that are not life giving. Some can be quite toxic.
Here are seven compliments to quit giving your kids.
1. The Back-Handed Compliment: “I didn’t think YOU would be able to do THAT.” Translation,“I believed you were incapable of accomplishing this.” Result: A direct hit to a child’s self-worth. He begins to feel insecure and eventually learns to be passive aggressive. Instead…be quiet unless you can say something that is actually nice.
2. The Inherited Compliment:“Oh yes Remington got his musical aptitude from his dad.” Translation, “You were just gifted through good genes,. You don’t fully own your success, your dad gets credit too.” Result: Cannot fully appreciate success or totally own failure. Learns to blame others of failures and relies on others for success. Replace the sentiment with,”Remington is a good musician.”
3. The Infection of Perfection Compliment: “Our little Denae is so perfect. She never does anything wrong.” Translation, “We only love you when you are perfect. There is no room for being human in our family.” Result: Stress and pressure on the child. The child learns to manipulate situations so he or she continues to look and be “perfect.” Rather let the child be imperfect. It’s OK, we all are flawed..
4. The Figure Focused Compliment:“Honey, you are so beautiful. skinny, buff, etc” Translation, “Your worth is all tied up in your physical appearance.” Result: Exaggerated emphasis on external characteristics rather than developing desirable and godly qualities. Alternatively focus on the qualities to be developed (kindness, honesty, generosity) and then here and there compliment the child on his appearance.
5. The Yertle the Turtle Compliment: “You are better than______. You deserve better than____.”
Translation, You are more worthy and valuable than another human. Result: Pride and entitlement grow in this environment. The idea of I’m better than you is reinforced. In lieu of putting one down to elevate another teach your child the truth– all are created in God’s image and all worthy of love and respect.
6. Flat-Out Flattery Compliment: “You are so strong. Will you do this for me?” Translation, When a compliment is received an act of service must be given (tit for tat). Result: the child learns to manipulate through flattery to get one’s way. It is preferable to be honest and state what you need or want without gussying it up with flattery.
7. Pie in the Sky Compliment: “Nice job.” A nonspecific compliment. Translation, “I really don’t see what you did well but I want to pacify you with with a general compliment.” Result: The child doesn’t learn good reflective and evaluation skills. Perhaps ask a question instead, “What do you think you did well?” Be specific in your praise.
Our kiddos cannot be good at everything. Our praise must be both honest and specific and… not one of these 7 toxic compliments.
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Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.