Some parents worry that giving too many compliments might puff their kids up. Others thoughtlessly dole out praise without thought for the deeper impact. What kind of praise will communicate love to your kids without spoiling them?
“You’re the best!” feels good to hear. It also means that others are less great than me. Kids who hear it often might be inclined to compare themselves to others – their skills to other people’s skills. In that realm there’s almost always someone more skilled, so the striving to live up to the description can take on a fairly egotistical bent. Indeed, this sort of affirmation tends to puff up heads. But if your goal is to encourage a child — that is, fill them with courage to do what God created them to do — there is a better way to affirm.
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We suggest instead of “You’re the best!” to use words that are not comparative. Like, “You’re awesome!” This is not a comparison but simply a truth. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. You are therefore awesome.” Or, “That was great!” Here the focus is on the thing, not the person.
Perhaps the best affirmation is to compliment in a way that draws attention to more than just the person. Like this – “What a blessing to watch you!” Now the focus is on the blessing. The hearer is helped to understand that their talent is something God can use to bless others. Blessing others is, after all, the reason God gives talents.
This is all part of training children up in the way they should go. You can either affirm in ways that puff kids up (which ultimately tears them down) or you can point to their position as agents of God’s blessing in the world.