What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about you? Or to you? Something that made you smile huge. Something that made warmth spill all over your heart just like when you drop a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of a warm piece of apple pie… only make the pie a giant brownie instead because I don’t really like to ruin my desserts with fruit.
Maybe someone paid you a compliment that brought a tear to your eye or a lump to your throat not only because that person thought that nice thing about you, but actually said it out loud.
Maybe this compliment came from a spouse or a sibling or a parent or a teacher or even a stranger. You know, like when that sassy girl on the street calls out to you, “Your dress is fabulous!” and you just feel like a million bucks? (Actually that’s never happened to me. But I’m sure that’s just because I don’t wear dresses that often. If I did, I’d totally have sassy-girl compliments flying my way all the time, right?)
Regardless of who said it, you know you cannot ever thank them enough… because that feeling has always stayed with you. And sometimes you pull it out on the days when you really need it – like that day you got splattered by mud by a speeding bus just like Carrie Bradshaw. “Hey, that was a bummer, but remember when [that person] said [that really nice thing about me]?” It lightens your spirit even though you’re covered in a lot of freaking mud.
Has anyone ever done that for you?
At my wedding in 2005, my Dad stood up in front of about 225 people (including family, friends, family friends and a whole bunch of Pier 60 wait staff) and called me “the pot of gold at the end of his rainbow.”
C’mon. Right? See what I mean?
On my crappiest days, I pull that little nugget out and it just helps.
Hang in there… there’s a reason why I’m telling this story.
Praising our kids is receiving a wicked backlash these days. NOW WAIT. Before you start jumping down my throat and screaming, “They’re talking about over-praising our kids for the small, everyday stuff, not during a one-time [hopefully] wedding toast!” (Isn’t it creepy how I know exactly what you’re thinking? Mwah ha ha ha!), let me finish.
Here’s the thing: that pot of gold compliment didn’t come out of nowhere. My Dad just found an awesomely poetic and meaningful way to express what my parents made clear to me everyday. That I was important. Capable. Valued. Loved.
Can you imagine a better gift to give a kid?
We all want our kids to feel good about themselves and have the confidence to face any situation life may throw their way. Like bullies. Or acne. But now there’s a whole bunch of research that says that over-praising our kids is really bad for them. That giving every Little League player a trophy at the end of the season, even if they didn’t play, will land them on a therapists’ couch in 20 years. Too many accolades and a kid’s self-esteem starts to overflow and they end up walking through this world feeling entitled and self-righteous. You know, like Snooki.
I’ve been a part of several discussions recently that all concluded with the fact that as parents, we can try to make out kids lives easier, but not TOO easy. We can listen to their problems, but not solve them. We can support their efforts, but not fawn over their achievements. We have to walk the line between building self-esteem, without over-inflating their egos. The argument being that they should be prepared for the “real world,” which doesn’t applaud every teeny tiny accomplishment.
The tricky part is finding that line. (Personally, I have stopped complimenting every scribble that the Nibbit puts in front of my face. I’ve started saying things like “Hmmm… I would like this a little better if you used orange.” That’ll keep his ego in check.)
Because here’s the thing: I come from a family that was (and continues to be) extremely supportive and praising and I remember what it felt like as a kid to be secure in the fact that someone thought I was awesome. And it felt really, really great.
So yeah, we don’t have to freak out about every “masterpiece” or every play at every soccer game but hell if I’m not going to cheer for the home run or the straight As. I’ll also commend the hard work and the not-quitting-even-when-you-really-wanted-to-ness. (That would be perseverance, I guess.) And MOST importantly, I’ll commend their kindness. And goodness. (Pleaseohpleaseohplease let them be at least a little bit good.)
They are kids and I am their Mom. I want them to know that I am their #1 Fan. (I may even buy a foam finger.) I want them to know that what they do is awesome. And that they are valued. Everyday. No matter what.
If their egos start to inflate, I’ll just show them some of the previous posts on this blog about their potty training failures and underwear discomfort issues. That’ll cut them right back down to size.
But in the meantime, they need to know that they are MY pots of gold. And I want them to experience that melted-ice cream-on-a-warm-brownie feeling as often as possible.
PS. You did a GREAT job reading this post! You skimmed a teeny tiny bit towards the end, but I love the way you stuck with it! Well done! Gold star for you!