“You have such good children!” A woman smiles at me as we come out of the church. My children smile. They glow with happiness. And then I spoil it all by saying rather hurriedly, “They’re not always this good, you know!”
I feel uncomfortable, rather embarrassed. I want to brush off the woman’s compliment, swipe it away as quickly as possible. And then I notice I’ve also swiped the smiles off my children’s faces. I have not only rejected the kind words, I’ve turned them around and used them against the people I love the most.
I can understand the need to be humble. None of us wants to look like we think we’ve got it all worked out, that we’re perfect. Compliments are hard to accept. We may feel we don’t deserve them. But is it my right to brush away a compliment directed at my children?
I am not my children.
I could justify diverting the words of praise. I might think they could make my children proud. I wouldn’t want them to feel they were something special, would I? I want their feet planted firmly on the ground. Anyway, they need to know they still have a lot of work to do. How else will they be motivated to strive for virtue?
I know really this is a whole lot of nonsense. Criticism doesn’t result in children trying harder. Well, it might at first. But eventually, children just give up: “I’ll never be good enough.” But when we praise and encourage and love, children grow and grow.
I wonder how my kids feel when I deny they’re clever, beautiful, funny, helpful, sweet… when I downplay any praise? Then I wonder how I would feel if my husband denied I was a good wife.
My husband is my greatest supporter. And that’s what I need to be for my children. I need to be their number one fan.
“You have such good children!”
“Thank you!” I reply. “I’m very blessed to have them.”
My children smile. They glow with happiness.