Editor’s Note: This is a post by guest writer, JK.
“Brothers, come here!” yelled my 2-year-old daughter, Natalie. “I’m SO PRETTY! And I have my cute little stockings on!” This was her exclamation to her 4- and 6- year-old big brothers after I got her dressed up for church one morning. I could’t help but take it as a compliment since it was a rare occurrence for me to choose an outfit and get her ready to go. But I wondered, “Is this healthy?” I used to think that young people complimenting themselves was a bad thing, and that even someone else shouldn’t go overboard on complimenting children, because they could get conceited. Natalie’s mom, who is my wife, is from Russia, and when I went there the first time, I was surprised about how confident many of the young people I met there were. Children are encouraged to perform on stage at very young ages, and adolescents often throw parties for friends or visitors that include groups of young people planning skits and performances to try to outdo one another. I saw teens and pre-teens with amazing confidence and stage presence. Similarly, my wife’s stories of her childhood always include her parents encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone, with the supportive backdrop of, “You are so [special, smart, beautiful]. We know you’ll succeed!” And she did. She took a plane to the USA by herself when she was 16-years-old to stay three months with an American family she barely knew, just to practice her English. Thereafter, she visited a couple years later with the plans to stay for just two months, but spontaneously decided to apply to an American college and got accepted with a full scholarship. She ended up obtaining a dual degree, and ended up staying forever. My wife was not from an economically advantaged family, but what she did have was faith, confidence, and knew she was loved. Her life path would not have been possible without the encouragement and even over-encouragement from her parents who gave her the confidence in herself to have high aspirations. Similarly, I know the confidence I observed among the Russian youngsters was because of the support they had around them. So I say, “The world is full of people who want to cut you down. So go ahead, spoil your children with compliments, and if you hear exclamations like ‘I’m so pretty!’ from time to time, take it as a sign that you’re succeeding. They’ll grow out of that, but they’ll always have the confidence that loving and encouraging parents can instill.”
What are your thoughts on this issue?