'Why can't I accept a compliment? Even for my kids.'

Jo Leaper


“He’s so handsome!” (“Yeah, he takes after his father.”)

“Oooh, you’ve got a gorgeous smile little man!” (“And he knows it.”)

“What a cheeky devil!” (“Yep, you should see him at home.”)

Why do we do this to our kids?  More to the point, why do we do this to ourselves?  Most of us have no problem giving compliments to our children or our friends. Right? But why is it when someone – a friend or a stranger – compliments our kids to us, we find it hard to accept?  It’s a strange one – accept the compliment, and we’re egotistical.  Reject one, and we’re not worthy.

Jo’s beautiful boys.

For a while, I was thinking it was just me but after today, I’m not so sure.

We were in the doctor’s office, waiting for my two-year-old to go into surgery.  Lots of kids waiting.  Lots of nervous parents – you could tell those of us who’d been there more than once or twice.  Most parents interacted with just their own kids but shared smiles with each other as their kids did something silly.

A grandmother said to another mother, “What a cheeky boy!”  From what I saw, it was intended as a compliment, and, just like me, what was batted back was more self-deprecating than it could have been.

So, why do we do it?  And what message is it sending our children?

Are we so fragile in ourselves that we cannot encourage our children to be accepting of praise?  Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to praise each other and to seek the good in other people?

Perhaps we should be learning from them. Kids are very quick to tell the truth, mostly because they haven’t learned to lie yet (well, not well, anyway!).  Or is it our tall poppy syndrome kicking in?

Australians are renowned for not letting people get a big head, but we’re getting to the stage that it’s almost a national pastime. When someone compliments you, is the rule to shrug it off?

Jo Leaper is a working mum of two beautiful boys.  She loves to catch up with friends, read and, of course, eat chocolate – but truthfully finds it hard to find the time to do all that!

Are you good at accepting a compliment? Do you reject compliments – even if they’re aimed at your kids or even pets?