A young happily hugs her father

The Power of Toddler Compliments

As parents, we have “one of those days” more often than we care to admit. Those days when we struggle to get the family ready in the morning and have endless meetings and interactions during the workday that are sandwiched by rush hour traffic. Then we walk in the door and pressure ourselves to put that all away to try to fit a full day of love and bonding with our kids (not to mention dinner and a bath) into a two-hour window. Good times.

Then something magical happens. Your child says or does something sweet that seems to come out of nowhere at just the right time. Perhaps they compliment your hair, tell you they love you, or just give you a giant hug. Suddenly, all the stresses of being an employee, parent and person melt away.

Recently, I came across an art project my daughter did in her early preschool class – children were asked to select images cut out of magazines to represent things that they like. I was unpacking my daughter’s bag that evening while she was playing in the other room and saw three items on the page.

I asked her to tell me what she picked out. She bluntly stated, “cellphone…baby brother …daddy,” and ran back to the den. It completely changed my day. I’m not sure if my daughter views me as Captain America or Chris Evans, but honestly I am thrilled either way.

Since then, I have started paying more attention to those small moments when her kindness takes me by surprise. Some are adorable, like copying my actions or wanting clothes like mine, and some are admittedly petty, like when she wants me over her mom when she’s upset. But in whatever form they come, they warm my heart and make my day better. I believe that it’s important to cherish these moments and compliments each day for a few reasons:

  • Compliments encourage you: Even the smallest compliment or kind action from my daughter turns around the worst day and momentarily erases any worry that I might be messing up this whole parenting thing.
  • Compliments strengthen relationships: When you know that someone genuinely appreciates you, it makes you want to show them kindness more often. It doesn’t matter if it’s your daughter or Janice, the woman in accounting – kindness and genuine compliments strengthen relationships of all types.
  • Compliments make you less cynical: The world has enough cynics already. Don’t you want to believe that the world is a good and magical place? Kindness builds kindness and the world certainly needs more of that. Even if it is just for the sake of our children.

I think we all need to give and appreciate kindness and little compliments more than ever before. Parents today are faced with a lot of negativity and self-imposed guilt, and our social media timelines are filled with a combination of depressing news, negative comments or people posting stuff that, whether intended to or not, make you fear their lives are closer to perfect than yours. Finding joy in something as small as your daughter picking out shoes so she can match yours, helps you realize that life is a lot bigger than the small details and negativity that can bog us down each day. So be sure to embrace the unexpected compliment, especially if it compares you to a superhero.