However much you love your children, parenting can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog - so it’s lovely when people compliment your kids’ kindness and behaviour.
The wheels may come off occasionally, but a few words of recognition that you’re not doing a bad job and your children aren’t antisocial horrors can make a huge difference to how you’re feeling and how harshly we sometimes judge our own parenting skills.
“I take any compliment I can get about my kids. I find parenting incredibly challenging and am constantly feeling guilty or bad about some aspect of bringing up my three. I wholeheartedly embrace any scrap of praise when it is given,” says mum Kate Staines, a sentiment many of us will recognise.
Here, parents share their bursting-with-pride moments.
“On a flight to LA from Heathrow I was very worried about Jack, then 10 and at height of his boy craziness, and Lizzie, who was seven. But they behaved beautifully and this really posh gentleman in a linen suit said they were ‘impeccable’ children. I swelled with pride for the day, until Lizzie threw up in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel pool!” Jayne
Stamping out stigma
“When people tell me my children are always polite, well-behaved and are a credit to me; that I’m a good mum. That means a lot to me, as I had my first child at 17 and second at 19. The stigma of being a teenage mum wasn’t too good at the time.” Natalie
“We have two boys. My youngest is cute, helpful, kind, funny and we are told daily about some lovely thing he did. My oldest son is autistic. In contrast to teachers flooding me with praise as they do for the little one, I usually get attacked by a gaggle of kids at the school gates telling me about all the things he has done that day. The best days ever are the days when I don’t get those reports; when I see him walking along with friends instead of standing in a corner trying to hide. And very occasionally, his teacher will say, ‘He had a great day today! He was awesome!’ Those sorts of compliments keep me going and get me through the rest of the days. A great day for him might be a very ordinary day for another child, so it means a lot that the teacher has taken the time to compliment him - to give him a certificate for sitting at his desk, completing his work for once, or for a small act of kindness.” Jai
“My boys are in their teens and have played quite a big role over the last year in helping me to care for my mum who is in her 80s. Several people have commented how lovely (and unusual) it is to see boys their age willingly getting involved in looking after a grandparent. I am incredibly proud of them anyway for having ‘stepped up’ but it is certainly nice to see that recognised by others.” Erika
“We often go to a local café for hot chocolate after swimming. Just this weekend a woman came up and said how much she enjoyed seeing us together and how lovely the children were with each other. That made my day.” Francesca
Reasons to smile
“At our first parents’ evening, my daughter’s reception teacher told us she was a delight to have in the class - kind and thoughtful, beautifully behaved and eager to learn. I was grinning all night.” Sharon
“I love when I’m given compliments about my daughter’s behaviour, but I feel really uncomfortable when she’s being praised for her looks. That’s not an achievement and it feels bogus saying ‘thank you for noticing her thick curly hair and long eyelashes’. But if someone tells me she’s been a pleasure to have on a play date, I’m delighted.” Ella
“I’ve received comments on how good my offspring are in restaurants (they know they won’t get to eat out if they act up!) but one of the most unexpected compliments came from Jamie Oliver. We were on the same transatlantic flight (he with his then four kids, wife, assistant/nanny) and me with my husband and two little dudes. When we disembarked, Jamie approached me and asked how I’d managed to train my boys to be such good travellers. He said he’d noticed how good they’d been and told me that his brood had behaved like little terrors on the flight. Mine hadn’t slept a wink for the whole 11 hours, and I’m always very anxious about them disturbing other passengers, so it was really nice to hear!” Caroline
“People often compliment my daughter’s manners and kindness, she ‘protects’ younger children at soft play and asks lonely children if they’d like to join in. We gave someone’s child a compliment the other day. Again, at soft play (hell), there were a few six and seven-year-olds building a house with the giant blocks and it was taller than them. They were just finishing the roof - when one of our children fell backwards into it and knocked down the whole thing. We expected rage or tears but the eldest boy just laughed and said, ‘Oh well, we’ll have fun building it again!’ and asked if our kids would like to help. So we found their mum and told her how mature and kind her kids had been and she was so proud and happy. I suppose usually you’d feel dread if another mum sought you out at soft play, expecting the worst.” Gemma
When your children are praised, it’s tempting to reply in typical British self-abasement terms along the lines of “you should see them at home” or “what, these little monsters?” Don’t. Your kids may well be listening - and they deserve to know you too recognise their good behaviour. Instead, say thank-you and how much you appreciate their compliment and agree that your children have been lovely and make you very proud.
And then there are the comments you’re not entirely sure are a compliment or a diss. Ones like “You’re so calm” and” I don’t know how you do it - I couldn’t cope.” Smile beatifically and move on...