How to teach your kids to take a compliment

stormtrooper golf pga championship

I keep a drawer of beat-up books that I like to open a lot.

One’s a book of coaches’ quotes. I gain perspective from my sideline squad. Another’s a book of lists for parents. I’ve scribbled in that a lot. Another is a pocket-sized, tattered book called “Father to Daughter.” It’s a collection of advice fathers have given.

Occasionally, I’ll grab one of the sentences in it and expound upon it.

My conversation with a T-mobile customer service rep that turned to fatherhood inspired this. I’d love to hear your take on the topic, from the perspective of a parent or having been that daughter with your father.

The wonder years | #126

Remind her to never interrupt while she’s being flattered

My girls are a bit brash.

Bit understates that, I feel. They’re not braggadocious, though, unless you count the shit talk they toss at each other. Many of the compliments they garner while they play soccer, they don’t even hear. I do, though.

Some can’t be called compliments, truth be told.

But even the pointed words are complimentary in a way. They signify that my daughter has sufficiently ruined their afternoon with their high level of play. Even if a mom calls for someone to “bodyslam” that girl.

This acceptance of flattery thing has never been a specific lesson for these girls.

They’ve definitely had a model in me, and not in the best way. See, to me, everything – bad news, sad news, happy news, CNN news (ha!) should be met with comedy. Especially of the self-deprecating variety.

I’m basically Richard Lewis with more pigment.

Accidentally fashionable

Sometimes, fashion victory comes in the form of matching socks. Or footwear decisions that don’t make me look like someone’s grandpa (or clothing decisions that don’t make me look like someone’s grandson.)

Other times, I clean it up and look sharp(ish.)

When someone says You look nice today I’ll quip back Well I showered, so I might as well put on some clean clothes. I’m especially horrible at accepting a complimentary comment on my writing. I turn jeevy and prattle on about shortcomings and lack of intelligence.

It’s kinda sad, an allergy to kind words, when all you need to say is “thanks.”

I ordered a box of glasses frames years ago to try on. Women at work helped me narrow the choices to five and I tried them out one by one. The style brought on different comments, and I heard from people who looked way past me before.

I love those glasses one dreamboat uttered as I passed her on the stairs, wearing a clear-frame model that one of my players said made me look like Mahatma Gandhi.

Thanks I said, and it’s good that I was moving and she was staying and involved in another conversation. I’d have quipped about them covering my face and eventually to the fact that they’re not even glasses, really, and that makes my face a bit of a fraud.

Genuine girls

These daughters, it turns out, are the ones teaching the lessons.

Accept, acknowledge, move on. They do it genuinely when someone says incredible game, kid. One dad told me Camdyn must get it from me after she scored a beautiful goal last weekend on a turf field on a day so sunny I drank Coke Zero with ice in it afterward.

Oh man, I said, I was so lousy at sports that God must be trying to make up for it.

Funny, sure, and I’m okay with that one. I never want to claim responsibility for their success, as I watched a boy do when his brother scored in a high school game. My girls have made it this far despite my athletic ineptitude and that’s the truth.

Know what, though? I did coach them when they were little.

Those formative years, that they don’t openly acknowledge as crucial to their development. They don’t see it now. They see the next game, the next level. And that’s how it should be. And they’re headed for great memories and experiences.

I’ll take that as a compliment.

ketcham quote flattery



  1. (sorry, my cat was ‘helping me type.’ i’ve always reacted much the same way to compliments and my daughters as well. it makes me realize that they’ve learned that from me, and i then try to remind them. at school, i practice how to give and how to answer to a compliment. we role play it and they all then seem to give the same compliment and we all taugh. they get it because they have not yet learned how to use self deprecating humor yet, and we are off to the races..

    1. Cats are helpful that way, especially when the graciously give up their backsides to our faces as we try to work.

      Oh, if a kid can learn to accept compliments before they’re indoctrinated into the world of snark, what a wonderful world this would be.

  2. Sometimes it is hard to take a compliment when you don’t feel what they are saying is true. I don’t come back with quips but funny enough… my dad does. He can’t take a compliment to save his soul. The difference is, his combacks are not always funny, they are embarrassing and I want to slap him, lol. He is 74 years old and very kind. Would give you the shirt off his back, just don’t tell him he looks nice in it first! Ha ha!
    I have learned to take compliments from others along my path as an adult. I say thank you and most of the time, I try to return the favor. I find something about them to compliment also. This goes a long way. People subconsciously pay it forward. If someone does something nice for them, chances are greater they will do something nice for someone else within a short period of time. It’s kind of human nature even though most of us don’t realize it.
    You are a great dad, you are a handsome man and you are a fantastic coach!! And your blog rocks!!~ ❤

    1. Great point, Courtney – what if we don’t see what our complimenter sees? Dads and quips go hand in hand. It’s in our DNA. Oh, I’ve also fumbled the quip attempt, so please don’t slap him. Just know that we appreciate that you appreciate our shirts, even if we don’t know how to accept it.

      It’s a learning process. I’m better at giving compliments than getting them, although my least favorite are those that emphasize attractiveness.

      I will compliment the next person, so I don’t feel I’m patronizing the one who gave me the compliment. It doesn’t happen often! I will simply say thank you to your wonderful compliments, even though the mere mention of them brought about 234 quips in my mind!

  3. I’m the same way–gotta make a joke out of it. I’m learning from my daughter to just say “thanks” because the speaker gave a gift, the compliment, and to not accept it gracefully is to insult their gift. Plus, it’s our culture. We aren’t to supposed to bring attention to ourselves (yet we live in a culture where people do indeed make a living doing just that).

    1. Jokes are easy, Crick. We wouldn’t insult a gift of fresh-baked gingerbread men, so why compliments? I hadn’t considered the cultural aspect, either. We do live in such a contradictory time, we’re at once right and wrong all the time.

  4. I used to feel so awkward about compliments when I was younger. I’d get shy and bashful about it. And now that I’m older I’m still awkward, but like you, I tend to turn it into a joke. It’s a good reminder to stop and appreciate the kind words and taking them at face value, because they often are genuine.

    1. I think I was probably better about compliments at a young age, Beth. Or maybe I was just as goofy about them then. The joke swings the spotlight off us, those who don’t aspire to the spotlight. But as was pointed out earlier, that’s a bit of an insult to the one who dished out the compliment to begin with.

  5. I wish I knew how to take a compliment too. I’m really big on self-deprecating jokes at my own expense, especially when someone has something nice to say. Why can’t we just say thanks and move on?! It’s so difficult! I love that quote at the end. And good on you for raising such strong and amazing women–I’m sure your awesome influence has much to do with that!!

    1. If I knew I’d get a fistful of candy corn for every compliment I received gracefully, that’d motivate, Charlotte. Maybe we feel the need to keep it real when that happens. Say ‘thanks,’ and think the self-deprecating stuff for in your head – although that’s funny stuff, so share it with me, too. Glad you liked the quote – that’s a whole new can of beans, isn’t it? I think mostly I stay out of the way when it comes to raising these amazing girls (and right there is another example of not being able to simply take a compliment.)

  6. I’m the exact same way with compliments. It’s never my fault. I play it off with a thanks and a blush and a pathetic attempt at humoring my way out of it. You are teaching them well. They may not have gotten their athleticism from you, but because of you. I remember my dad talking to my brother and I about not bragging. It stuck. It doesn’t seem to be sticking to my oldest, but the youngest has learned.

    1. Why can’t people give us tacos instead of compliments, Eric? Problem solved. No blushing, just crumbs everywhere. I think in a lot of ways the girls teach me. I wonder if there will be a someday that they’ll look back and see that I had a role in their athletic lives, but even if they don’t, I’m proud to have served. We definitely try to win the right way – and more importantly, lose the right way, too. Is your oldest more of a showboat? Mine have all had that phase …

      1. My oldest is competitive so when he loses everyone knows. Unfortunately, when he wins everyone knows, too. Thanks to Dude Perfect on YouTube he thinks every shot, every hit, every kick needs to be celebrated.

  7. Love that you’re teaching these lessons to your girls. 🙂 I think it’s always been hard for me to accept compliments of any kind. I’d always deflect or change the subject. I try to be better about it and just say, “Thank you” without any qualifiers, but it’s so hard!

    1. I think I’m learning them as I teach these lessons, Mia. Compliments make us squirmy, don’t they? It almost feels wrong to accept or agree with them. Maybe it’s best to say “thank you” and leave the funny qualifiers in our heads (because you KNOW they’re going to come.)

  8. Deflecting a compliment with humor is so common, and yes, funny. I’m right there with you. But being able to receive is every bit as important as giving. In all forms. Gifts, compliments, or whatever. To me, pushing away a sincere compliment is akin to pushing away love. Saying thank you and leaving it there is a great way to accept. And over time it becomes more automatic.

    1. Comedy is my favorite spice, Sue. We both cull from the same spice rack. The receiving is much more difficult than the taking. Especially the genuine ones. I love your analogy to pushing away love. Who would want to not accept love?

  9. I used to find it hard to take a compliment, but I think as I get older, if becomes easier. I’m very proud of my boys, so if they get a compliment, it makes me proud too. I’m always genuinely appreciative of compliments, so I try to portray that, and hope that my boys learn from that too.

    1. Lots of stuff comes easier to us with experience, Shann. I think the best is when our kids see us at our most “experienced” and take after us. Compliments are few and far between, so why not appreciate them?

  10. Aaaw I do like the sentiment behind this post. I ,like you will always have to fling in a funny as a response to any compliment but thankfully the offspring seem to be much better at it than I am!!! #BlogCrush

    1. Glad you liked it! My kids will either wind up better at accepting compliments or funnier than me in deflecting them!

      (Thank you for the #blogcrush love on this post! I am looking for your blog …)

  11. This is something I’ve really been trying to work on recently.My natural reaction to a compliment is to point out how the person is mistaken (e.g. “nice dress” “oh it’s a hand-me-down”). I know this is not good so I’ve been trying to just smile and and say thanks but, after a lifetime of going with the first option, it feels really awkward and weird to me. Practise makes perfect though!

    Anyway, congratulations becauses someone loved this post so much, they added it to the #blogcrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

    1. Good timing, Lucy. We definitely downplay right away. I never feel like I should be getting complimented in the first place.

      I’m honored to be added to the #blogcrush thing! I’ll be by to check out the badge.

  12. Wonderful as usual, Eli! I struggle accepting compliments. On all levels. It’s definitely something to teach my kids. It’s okay to own it. But as the quote you chose to end this post states: Don’t overdo it 😉

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