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McLeod column: Please let me compliment your kid

Iíve observed a horrible phenomenon: the inability to accept a compliment about your employee, spouse, or child.
For example, last week my daughter had a friend spend the night.The young lady was polite, helpful, interesting, and a true delight to be around.
The next day when her dad picked her up, I told him how great she was. He said, jokingly, “Are you sure you’re talking about my daughter?”
People refuting compliments about their kids is a pet peeve of mine, so I was prepared.
ěYes,î I said looking him straight in the eye and smiling, ěshe’s truly wonderful.î
He continued to laugh and joke, saying, ěWell, if you say so, maybe she was great here, we canít get her to listen at home.î
Keep in mind this entire exchange happened right in front of his daughter, whose face went from beaming to crestfallen in less than 5 seconds.
Before you write the guy off as a jerk, let me tell you, heís more the norm than not. Iíve been proactively complimenting kids for over 10 years, and almost every time I tell a parent that Iím impressed with their child, if I say it in front of the kid, the parent will deny it.
They go into some stupid aw shucks routine where they basically refute your praise.
ěOh heís creative all right, but we can’t get him to do any homework.î or “Glad she behaved for you; we never know from one day to the next.î
Hereís the weird part, the same parent who will gracefully accept a compliment about their kid if the kid isnít standing there, will deny it if you say it in front of the child.
Weirder yet, even the braggy parents act this way. Are they afraid that a little slice of positive validation will cause their kid to slack off?
The most common reaction is to go for the cheap laugh, ěYou canít be talking about my kid.î Ha-ha! The adults laugh at how self-effacing you are, but the chance to make your child feel fabulous disappears.
FYI: People act the same way with their employees, and itís a huge leadership mistake.
Would it really be that challenging to smile and say, ěThanks, we think heís great too?î
The other thing Iíve noticed is that parents have a harder time accepting compliments about their childís character than they do their accomplishments. If I say, ěJohnny sure is a fast swimmer,î itís easier for them to nod, and say ěyes.î But if I say ëyour child is interesting, funny, or helpful,î itís more uncomfortable.
Maybe itís habit. Maybe itís because people don’t know how to take compliments. Or maybe itís hard to believe your kid is wonderful for others because theyíre not always perfect for you.
Or maybe it goes even deeper. Maybe itís because appreciating your kidís wonderfulness means that part of you might be wonderful too.
Whatever the reason, if youíre guilty of this one ó stop it! Stop right now.
I donít care if your kid (or employee) leaves smelly underwear on the floor for a year and has a D in 5 subjects. If they were polite at Johnnyís house and they get a compliment, be gracious and let them savor it.
The only thing better than someone telling your mom, dad or boss that you’re wonderful is when they smile back and say, ěYes, I totally agree!î
Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of three books included the best-seller, The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small, A Washington Post Top 5 Book for Leaders.
You can reach her at www.LisaEarleMcLeod.com. Her website is www.TriangleofTruth.com

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