Will Complementing Your Children Make Them Prideful?

She was a tall, thin woman in her mid 20’s. Her dark eyes were complimented by her long, dark, naturally curly hair that spilled loosely around her shoulders. I was sitting next to her mother when the young woman arrived to pick up her toddler. She hesitantly walked over to where we were. The two women exchanged a brief, strained conversation, after which the young woman called for her son to join her and quickly left. They never made eye contact. “Your daughter is beautiful!”  I exclaimed to the young woman’s mother. “Oh, really?” she answered, “Her father and I made it a point to never tell her she was beautiful. We didn’t want her to become prideful. We feel it’s wrong to compliment our children or tell them they are beautiful.”

I was stunned!

I knew their story.  They had created a very strict, rules oriented home. From a very young age the young woman was not given much encouragement or affirmation unless it was related to how she was supposed to act, think, or feel according to the Bible. She graduated from high school, got a job, and began attracting the kind of attention and  affirmation that she had never received at home. She married a man her parents did not approve of, after becoming pregnant with her son, and she now lived with the cloud of her parent’s disapproval hanging over her head.

The young woman’s mother – now a grandmother – had done what she thought was right. But I left that conversation feeling very sad, resolving not to follow in her footsteps. My children were very young at the time and I couldn’t imagine NOT encouraging them in any way possible!

Did not complementing her children really keep them from becoming prideful? I don’t think so. In fact, I would venture to say that it did the opposite. Not acknowledging the young woman’s physical beauty resulted in her failure to see that beauty from God’s perspective: as a gift. What could this well meaning mom have done differently? Would a different approach have  guaranteed her daughter’s better life choices? There’s no way of knowing. But this sad story did cause me to evaluate how we might approach encouragement and praise within our family.


4 Ways to Praise Your Children to the Glory of God

  1. As parents, we are called to be humble, authentic believers who live out the gospel before our children. It is our calling to nurture, instruct, guide, and love; to point out God’s goodness and the truth about who and what they are (the good and the bad), and to share the gospel with them.
  2. We can help our kids learn how to deal with the pride that is already in their hearts  (Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.”; Psalm 51:5 states that we all come into the world as sinners; Genesis 8:21 declares, “…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”) and how to handle the lies of our culture that might feed into the pride that is present in all of our hearts from birth. Teaching our children how to fight the fight, and letting them know that their parents are fighting the fight as well, will help equip them to see things from God’s perspective.
  3. God has created every single aspect of our being to be used to bring Him glory. We are made in His image, which means we are a reflection of Him physically, mentally/emotionally, spiritually, and in our gifts and abilities. All of these facets reveal God’s goodness and are gifts from His hand. They can cause us to focus on Him with a grateful heart, if we see them from His perspective.
  4. We gift affirmation to our children because God has made them beautifully and uniquely. The act of pointing out these aspects of our children can be used to glorify God for his good works. I’m not talking about flattery or “building self-esteem,”  nor do I mean feeding the prideful desire for human praise. I am talking about praising the work that God has done and is doing in another person. Praising people to the glory of God.

I wonder if that precious young woman would have made different choices if she had been encouraged and affirmed as she was growing up. If she had learned how to handle the attention she would receive outside of the four walls of her home and church, learned that she was created in the image of God, and that her beauty and abilities were a reflection of HIS image, maybe things would have been different. I don’t know. But ignoring the fact that she was beautiful didn’t make her beauty non-existent!  All it did was make her feel like she wasn’t anything special, instead of equipping her to point others to God.

I can think of nothing better than pointing my children to God and His goodness, or expressing gratitude for how God has made them and what He is doing in them. It enables them to see God’s great work, but also helps them to see Him as the source of every good gift. I am looking for every opportunity I can to encourage my children in this way, so that they are refreshed and so that God receives the glory He deserves.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

Tell your children that they are  beautiful – inside and out! Tell them so that they will know it full well!