Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Awkward Mom vs. Compliments (battle 16473)

Well, I can't document every battle with Compliments. I spent enough time fending her off; I don't have energy left to talk about it! 

For the backstory; here ya go. Basically, to quote myself (and thus throw my argument into a bit of a tailspin, but let's ignore that) "I'm a honest-to-goodness deflection Ninja with an arsenal of creative weapons to hurl your compliment back at you or just knock it miles away, where it can't touch me or, God forbid, actually land in my heart."

And I am wondering if these compliment ninja habits of mine are being passed on to the Supers. Do my children dodge compliments with the artistry of their mother? Are they mini-Neos; slow-mo sliding under the compliments with the flexibility of circus performers? Do they stand there like Superman and just let the compliments hit them, confident they will harmlessly bounce off? Are they more like the energy absorbers, who take all those compliments in, only to fling them back, full-force, at the original hurler? Or maybe they Wolverine it? Allow the compliments to affect them slightly but never to fully penetrate their inner soul? Avoiding compliments takes many forms and it is necessary to have multiple ways at your fingertips. You never know when you might run into an aggressive complimenter.

I want to know what I am raising here. Mostly to steal their techniques, but that is neither here nor there. Therefore, I conducted an experiment. I complimented the Supers regularly over 5 days to see what would happen.

Now, I compliment my children all the time. It is impossible not to; they are super, after all. Within the course of an hour, I could praise kindness, intelligence, sausage eating ability, lightsaber twirling, math skills, beauty, spelling, artistry, somersaults, couch fort construction, throwing, catching, climbing, and a stirring rendition of Let It Go. They are pretty amazing.

But for the purposes of my experiment, I decided to use just one compliment and see what would happen. I picked "You are a good friend." I picked this for 3 reasons:

1.) Because they all are very good friends. To me. To each other. To their playmates. To random kids at the park. To sundry invisible and imaginary people.

2.) Because it is specific but yet vague; meaning they wouldn't get suspicious of my repeatedly telling them this one thing, everyday, for 5 solid days. I probably tell it to them daily as it is and it has endless varieties. "You are a good friend." "What a good friend you are." "You certainly know how to be a good friend." "Friendship is your superpower." OK, so, many not endless varieties, but enough. I didn't want them catching on; starting to tailor their answers and messing with me. After all, they are super smart.

3.) And because it is a quality that I think it pretty important in the long run. Beauty fades. Smarts only get you so far. Lightsaber-dueling, while extremely valuable, doesn't truly bring balance to the Force the same way that kindness can. Being a good friend is one of the major underpinnings of society; why not encourage it, along with gathering some vital compliment stats?

OK, so here is the raw data. We'll draw some conclusions, but for now, let's just see what happened:

Super Kindergartener's responses to "you are a good friend" and similar phrases.
Day 1: Thanks!
Day 2: Yep! Hand me that lego, OK?
Day 3: Thank you, Mom. You too!
Day 4: I know; Awesome Kindergartener thinks so too.
Day 5: Thank you. You too, Mom!

Super Preschooler's responses to "you are a good friend" and similar phrases:
Day 1: Thanks!
Day 2: Invisible Grandpa says so and he is never wrong.
Day 3: Friends are good.
Day 4: Yes. You too, Mom!
Day 5: Invisible Grandpa is my great friend. I am a good friend to him because he is my good friend.

Super Toddler's responses to "you are a good friend" and similar phrases:
Day 1: OK.
Day 2: OK.
Day 3: Friends. I like friends. I am great friend. My friend love me. You love me, Mommy!
Day 4: OK. Hungry, Mommy.
Day 5: OK.

Super Baby's responses to "you are a good friend" and similar phrases:
Day 1: Face-splitting grin
Day 2: Nodded off.
Day 3: This:
Day 4: Something like this: 
Day 5: This: 

I am no Reed Richards, but I think the evidence here is overwhelming. My children are terrible Compliment Ninjas! They just accept them; they take them in, with various degrees of depth, and actually thank the Complimenter. What is this madness? It's almost as if they think the complimenter isn't somehow attempting to trick them into a false sense of security or flatter them for some nefarious purpose. It actually seems like my children just accept that they are good people with the occasional flaw, rather then deeply flawed with the occasional, and usually accidental, good. I think they actually believe good things about themselves! They actually see compliments as someone's honest and true attempt to point out something real and equally true, instead of some huge web of lies built for the purpose know, I never did figure that part out. Never mind, point is, my children have inherited none of my compliment avoidance and praise paralysis. None. Not one bit. Nothing at all. 

Thank goodness. 


  1. I wonder how they would deal with a constructive critique. For example in response to "hitting your brother is not being a good friend" would they: A- Deflect "My brother isn't my friend." B-Compliment Ninja internalize "I'm sorry, you're right, I'm a horrible person who is lucky anyone would ever want to be my friend at all" over and over again, or would they C-recognize fault and move on "Sorry, I'll try better next time... hey look it's already next time"?

    1. Hmmm....not sure. I am thinking A. :)

      Food for thought for thought.