“My mommy says I’m good at that.”

When I heard Carson say this from the other room, I had a flash-forward to American Idol 2024, when a handsome blond kid comes in the room and sings confidently and oh-so-off-key. He’ll proudly look at the judges and then drop his jaw in shock and horror when they tell him he’s no good. “WELL! My MOM told me I was a good singer!”

Actually, what I said was “I like your singing.” There’s a difference.

But this particular comment in the title of this post was referring to math. And, in fairness, I think he’s pretty sharp with numbers! He counted to 300 the other day and told me 10 plus 8 is 18, 10 plus 10 is 20, and 10 minus 10 is 0. I feel like that is impressive? At least he was only bragging to his auntie about his brains, and she’d probably echo my praises, even if they were a blatant lie. But what if he starts chanting it on the playground at school?! Annoying kid alert! Stay away! Stay away!

Oh, elusive balance, help me find you! I’m always striving to develop “the perfect child.” I want each of them to be confident, but not arrogant. Health conscious, but not weight-obsessed. Well provided for, but not spoiled. Funny, but not distracting. Kind, but not a door-mat. Entertained, but not mind-numb. But I’m especially mindful of trying to build up their self-esteem in meaningful ways without inflating their little egos to monstrous proportions!

I read an article when Carson was a baby about how narcissistic young people have become. Kindergarten teachers said they were shocked that these little self-absorbed creatures were walking into class having never lost a game of Candyland or Shutes & Ladders. The quote that stuck with me was: Give your kids the gift of disappointment.

We try to make a pointed effort to praise, well, EFFORT, moreso than results. Instead of saying “You’re a great ball player!” or “You WON!” we try for “I love how you figured that out all on your own!” Instead of “Good boy!” we say “I saw how you were so gentle with your sister just then and it made me proud and it made her happy.” We try to limit our compliments about physical features and athletic prowess and focus on character traits and fruits of the Spirit.

But you know what? They’re my babies and I’m their mommy and sometimes I just can’t help myself! “Little man! You are so smart!” Yep, I’ve said that. “You are my pretty girl!” Yep, that one too. I’m playing the Mom card here and saying it’s my right to GUSH.

And I think they’ll be OK. Carson loses at Candyland all the time. And Sydney has a little puppy-dog pout that she tries and it does NOT get her out of discipline. They deal with disappointment in varying degrees on a daily basis. (So do I, but that’s another blog post.)

So we’ll just keep on striving for balance. They will never be the perfect children! And I sure as HECK will never be the perfect mother. But you know what?

MY MOM says I’m good at it. 🙂


  1. Since I’m your Mom I get to vote again. I love watching you being a Mom, Jen. Each time I’m with Carson and Syd I see the fruits of your love for them and your intentional parenting. Are they perfect? Of course not. Do they know they are loved deeply, valued, and can make mistakes? You bet. So relieved that God sees us that way!

  2. Yep, your mom is right! And I agree with the other kindergarten teachers–most kids come in on one extreme or another: never lost Candy Land or never played something like Candy Land with their family.

    One thing that I picked up about self-esteem years ago, and I’m constantly mulling over it, is that self-esteem comes from knowing what is right and doing it. Not so much from talent or ability, nor compliments, but we feel good about ourselves when we take the tough road, the less-enticing one. That is so true for me, and I see it so clearly in my kids (my smart, pretty kids!). I’m with you–gushing just comes out!

  3. I’m so with you on this! And right now we’re trying to curb the whole “I’m really smart” thing with our oldest… teaching him that different people have different gifts, and perhaps a bit pointedly noting that while he may do some things better than his friends, they can do all sorts of cool things that he can’t yet do. Humility is a good thing… but teaching that to a just-turned-six year old is not easy! 🙂

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